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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Averting Child Sexual Abuse

A Mom Reflects on Parenting and Prevention

As a data-driven professional my career has been spent measuring. I measure my sales team’s success against their targets. I measure a campaign’s success in the marketplace. We even measured poops and pees when our daughter was first born (doctor recommended) … although the line charts weren’t actually necessary. Most of what happens in our lives can easily be measured.

This past year I came to realize child sexual abuse prevention is one thing that cannot be measured – unless it’s averted.

When my children were born, I knew I did not want them to be a statistic. At least not one of the one’s that we see on the news each evening.

We stumbled across the Parenting Safe Children Workshop and signed up. Feather taught us how to prevent our girls from becoming one of the statistics. We took her teaching seriously. We always asked caregivers questions about child safety. We talked regularly with our girls about body safety, making the point they were in charge of their bodies and had to give permission for anyone to touch them. I even told my daughter’s doctors that they needed to ask her permission before examining her. Prior to dropping them off at any activity we went through the regular script, “Don’t go to the bathroom by yourself, don’t go anywhere alone with an adult, don’t go outside the building unless I’ve texted you and you can see my car.” The exact words changed and morphed over the years but the gist and the intent were the same.

We talked about secrets vs. surprises, being isolated or separated when in a group, and the list went on.

Fast forward to last fall: My two girls are now in their teens and they, along with another teammate, came to me and another mom to share “something wasn’t quite right at practice.”

They proceeded to share in detail what amounted to a situation where the coach was grooming the post-puberty girls. He had begun to try to get them alone and was becoming bolder in his actions. The girls on the team made a pact, to not tell the adults, but these three young women recognized everything their parents had been telling and teaching them was coming into play - and they needed help. 

After they told us, and asked for help, we quickly assured them they had done exactly the right thing and that the adults would handle it going forward. The girls never saw the coach again. The parents took action by contacting the owner who engaged a child abuse specialist, engaging a detective through law enforcement, and beginning counseling to ensure all stones had been uncovered.

How many of these cases happen every year – where a child, from the time they were toddlers, has been taught basic body-safety techniques and averts what could have been a very dire situation.

An educated parent and an empowered child can avert a child sexual abuser.

Read the daughter's post here:

A Teen Shares Her Story

Red Flags, But Can I Tell My Parents?

"If something does not feel right, you need to tell us…”

It was those words that rung in my ears when my coach grabbed my hips so close that I felt his breath on my shoulders. I knew what was happening was not right. I was at practice, my teammates were near, I was wearing a leotard and still I was being violated, and that was not ok. Red flags went up all around my body the first time I was touched. I knew after the second time I needed to go to my parents immediately. I remember sitting in a local restaurant telling my parents what happened to me, with one of my teammates. It was a talk that I never dreamed of myself having. I knew I could tell my parents anything and that I would be

I have always read stories of young girls getting molested or raped all over the nation never knowing that it could possibly be me. I remember the day it happened. I was very scared and worried of what could possibly happen next. I didn’t know what to do other than tell my parents, which I was taught since I was a toddler. This possibly could have saved me from the absolute worst.

In the aftermath, I spent three hours talking to a forensic interviewer and a detective. It was one of the most stressful environments for a 15-year-old. I knew I had to continue to push through and persevere, so that what I spoke could potentially save another child. Most nights I would come home crying. I was so emotionally exhausted from all of these events happening. It was and still is one of the hardest obstacles I have had to overcome.

Later on my mom told me about these classes that she had taken and that was how her and my dad had parented to ensure I knew about body safety. I want to thank Feather from the bottom of my heart for providing these classes and giving my parents the tools for awareness and prevention.

Advice for Other Teens
I have found throughout my case and many others that many of my friends are afraid to speak up in a certain situations. They hope by staying quiet the issue will fix itself. My one piece of advice is when something doesn’t feel right, even if it seems minuscule you have to speak up to a parent or trusted adult. To this day I still struggle thinking what my coach did to me was my fault and I think that is an issue that many girls face. They feel that other people’s actions are their fault, when it is not. During forensic interview, it was extremely hard emotionally for me to comprehend. Replaying the details of what happened to me to my interviewer was so hard, but it began to change my thinking of it - that it wasn’t my fault. It was my coach’s issue, not mine.

To start my healing I began volunteering at a child advocacy center. Through my volunteering it gave me the realization that many girls struggle with some form of abuse and it was not just me. I would tell anyone who has gone through something similar to me to get connected, get help, and don’t close yourself off. 

You can read the mom's post here: