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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Prevention or Discrimination?


I’ve been asked a lot of questions lately about transgender men and women using bathrooms and parental concerns about sexual abuse. 

North Carolina’s House Bill 2 law and similar legislation ban people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex. Proponents of such legislation argue that it’s important because men might otherwise enter women’s restrooms and attack young girls.

Well, I’ve got news for you: You have been sharing public bathrooms with transgender men and women long before North Carolina passed House Bill 2 and well before Target announced a policy allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice. We didn’t worry then and we shouldn’t worry now – if people simply embrace fact over myth, acceptance over fear, and follow basic Parenting Safe Children safety rules.

First the facts:
  • There are hundreds of nondiscrimination measures in place across the United States, and according to law enforcement officials, there has not been a surge in bathroom victimizations. Here’s why:
  • 90% of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows and trusts, who is already in their life – not by strangers.
  • Child sexual abuse takes place in homes, youth organizations, schools, camps, places of faith – not typically in retail or large public bathrooms.
  • People who sexually abuse children typically “groom” children and teens over days, weeks, and months. The abuser is not just alone with the child, but has authority over the child and takes advantage of the child’s trust.
Yes, it’s important to teach children safety rules about using public bathrooms, just like you would educate your child about safe practices for walking home from school. For instance, teach your child to use public bathrooms in groups of two or more and to let an adult know when separating from a larger group to use the restroom. If it’s a younger child, you’ll either be accompanying him or her, or standing outside the door.

In the absence of facts, I believe that people are contributing to a climate of discrimination that hurts transgender people – and does nothing to keep children safe from sexual abuse. In fact, discrimination not only hurts the group whom it targets, but in this case it’s a dangerous distraction. I urge people to redirect their focus to meaningful ways of keeping children safe.

  1. Educate yourself about grooming behaviors so you can spot behaviors of concern.
  2. Teach children the difference between secrets and surprises. A secret is something that someone asks you “never” to tell and makes you feel uncomfortable. A surprise is something that makes you feel good and will come out into the open like a gift or a party.
  3. Maintain a “No secrets” policy in your home. Let your kids know that you don’t have secrets, only surprises. Instead of saying, “Don’t tell Mom I let you stay up tonight or we’ll both get into trouble,” you might say, "I'll let you stay up late tonight and if Mom and I disagree about bedtime, we'll work it out. It's not your problem."
  4. Discuss boundaries around touch with all of your child’s caregivers, including family members, coaches, teachers, and faith leaders. Let each person know that your child does not keep secrets and has permission to tell you everything.
  5.  Let adults know that your child has permission to say, "No" if he or she ever feels unsafe.
Parenting Safe Children proudly stands in unison with 250 national, state and local organizations, that work with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, in supporting equal bathroom access for transgender people.

Test your Knowledge about Child Sexual Abuse.

Courageous Conversations & Tips Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Please join me in countering our culture of silence about child sexual abuse by speaking up and having Courageous Conversations.

Child sexual abuse thrives in a culture of silence and opportunity, and by not speaking up, we leave children vulnerable. In fact, offenders have told me outright that they count on our discomfort and silence. On the contrary, when adults are willing to talk openly with caregivers about child sexual abuse and body-safety rules, opportunity for abuse is minimized.

If we are going to stop child sexual abuse, we must be willing to have Courageous Conversations, day in and day out. Only then can we prevent children from being sexually exploited, usually by someone the child knows and trusts. If adults are uncomfortable talking to caregivers about body safety, how can we possibly expect a child to speak up in a difficult situation? It’s just not fair to ask children to do our work.

A strong child sexual abuse prevention program, like Parenting Safe Children, places responsibility for child safety in the hands of adults. Yes, we need to teach children how to say “No” to unwanted touch, but its only we adults who can transform our culture into one with a zero tolerance for child sexual abuse.

Every day this month, I am posting a Courageous Conversation tip on Facebook. Many of you ask me for language to help you get the conversation started, so I am including sample language as well. Go to Facebook now and please also share my posts with everyone you know so we can build communities – far and wide – that are off limits to child sexual abuse.
Prevention works – and together, we can keep children safe from sexual abuse.

PSC Launches Parenting Safe Children ONLINE Workshop

I am thrilled to announce the Parenting Safe Children Online Workshop, so parents and families across the United States and overseas have access to my popular program for raising children with strong body pride and for building communities that are off limits to child sexual abuse.

The New Online Workshop
Based on the Parenting Safe Children Workshop, which I’ve delivered live to thousands of parents, the Parenting Safe Children Online Workshop, focuses on these essential parenting skills:
  1. Teaching children about boundaries, privacy, and saying “No” to unwanted touch.
  2. Learning the difference between age-appropriate sexual behavior and problematic sexual behavior.Identifying when a child, teen or adult may be harming a child sexually.
  3. Teaching children about body pride through body-safety rules, teachable moments, and “What-If” games.
  4. Asking daycare, schools, youth organizations, and places of faith about key policies for keeping children safe from sexual abuse.
  5. Building confidence for talking about body safety with caregivers: Day care providers, teachers, babysitters, coaches, religious leaders, and members of your own family.
Pricing and Content
For an introductory $39.99, anyone outside of the Denver metro area can gain instant access to the Parenting Safe Children curriculum, which includes:
  • Three modules of learning from Parenting Safe Children founder and national child sexual abuse prevention expert, Feather Berkower, divided into short segments for easy access and retention.
  • Transformative videos, reading materials, and activities, available any time, day or night.
  • Ten-page download to support parents in applying body-safety concepts in their home and community.
Call to Action
With the Parenting Safe Children Online Workshop, we can reach parents, loved ones, and caregivers throughout the United States, and around the world like never before. This is a great day for parents and kids, so please join me in my mission of keeping kids safe by

  1. Registering today for the Parenting Safe Children Online Workshop, to which you’ll have 60-day access (from the date of purchase).
  2. Sharing this blog post and link with your friends and family so they can become part of your prevention team.
Accessing the course is easy:
  • Register at
  • Pay via PayPal or a credit card – Be sure to enter your discount code OFFLIMITS on this screen to get the course for $39.99 (regularly $44.99).
  • Begin the workshop, which you have 60 days to complete, from the date of purchase.

Thank you for all you do to keep children safe from sexual abuse!