28 June, 2013
The kids got “Stranger Danger” education at school this week. Making sure no one gets into a car with a stranger, or worse still, accepts any sweets. We discuss this type of thing quite frequently at home. This is in part, probably due to my job. I encounter, on a far too frequent basis, the results of childhood sexual abuse. And also the fact that they spend a lot of time away from me at weekends, often in situations which I’m not terribly happy about – at pubs and parties with people I don’t even know.
There are only estimates for the number of children sexually abused in the UK. It’s largely unreported, in fact, I can’t even remember ever having a client who has reported it to any authorities – other than maybe telling a parent, who ignored them. Estimates put the figure for girls at 1 in 4, and for boys 1 in 6. Sad-to-say, but it sounds about right to me. The incidence of abuse rise with added risks of alcohol, drugs and multiple partners.
I have a friend who worked with a group of pedophiles. (I should probably point out she was a social worker). They told her an interesting thing. That when they’re hanging-out around the schools, it’s not the kids they’re looking at. They’re looking for the vulnerable parent who is going to give them access to a child. Feel vulnerable? To be honest I used to, especially as a single parent, but this made me feel a whole lot better about it. Not being the vulnerable parent, with the vulnerable kids – yeah, that one I could manage. So my children’s education began at a fairly early age. We have frank discussions about all sorts of things. We talk about situations, strangers, so-called “friends”; we discuss tactics and have a good laugh about it too. But, I always teach them how to deal with each situation. So they’ve been armed with responses, rather than trapped in the headlights of blind panic.
But, I also put perspective in there. I don’t let them listen to the news, with it’s terrifying stories about children being abducted or killed. I’ve always thought it’s scaremongering. There were 72 child abductions by strangers, in the UK last year (er, that’s about 64 more than I thought, actually). But, more frighteningly, there were 375 attempted abductions by strangers. A lot more than I thought. However, let’s compare this total number, 447, to the overall rate of abuse of our young people. Let’s say, (purely) for numerical sake, abuse happens between the ages of 6 and 15. That would be an estimated 750,000 girls and 500,000 boys being sexually abused right now, in the UK. The 447 child abductions are clearly the extreme, visible end of the problem; but not the predominating perpetrators.
A client once said, “When are we going to face up to the fact that our children are at most risk from someone we know and trust, not strangers.” Her words stayed with me, because she was right. Collectively, we’re still in denial about who abuses our children. And in that respect, we continue to fail them. When are we going to really educate our children how to speak up if a grandfather, step dad or brother enter their room at night, when mum is asleep? Are we going to teach them how to cope with threats of everyone knowing “the dirty things you’ve done”? Will our children get an assembly on that? There is very little on the internet when it comes to talking about family abuse, but massive resources to protect from them from strangers. Are we teaching practical measures for children with this problem, other than, “tell someone”. Surely, we can find more ways to help rid these children of their nightmares?
Back to “Stranger Danger”;
Me: “So what did they say? Don’t take sweets from strangers?”
Sami: “Yeah. Showed us a video. But, of course we’d all take the sweets, we just wouldn’t get in the car.”
Amba: “Yeah, grab ’em and run, really fast.”
Me: “Er, I think when you put your arm out for the sweets, that’s when they grab you.”
Sami: “Really! They didn’t tell us that. Everyone in my class is gonna take the sweets.”
Amba; “Yep, my class too.”