Letter: Adults must teach our children how to resist unwanted touches

Apr. 05, 2013 @ 11:31 PM

Adults must teach our children how to resist unwanted touches


This April Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center is honoring the brave children in our community who have come to us since 2005 to disclose their abuse. They are among the over 280,000 children served by a child advocacy center in the U.S. annually, and the majority of these cases were due to sexual abuse.

That is a staggering number, yet 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they reach 18, and sadly, due to fear or shame, only 1 in 10 will ever report their abuse.

From children who have suffered severe neglect, physical and sexual abuse to children who have witnessed a violent crime or act, these innocent victims need the understanding, compassion and support of each one of us. The commitment to stand together as a community to protect our children is a rallying cry easily echoed, having the courage to put our words into deeds is often more difficult.

Hearing the detailed accounts of the horrific acts of abuse these children have suffered at the hands of the adults is heartbreaking. The boys and girls we serve at Safe Harbor live in our neighborhoods, go to school and attend church, play little league and soccer, and take dance and swimming lessons with our children and grandchildren. They are bright and energetic, and like our own children, they are eager to please adults in their lives. Although we would like to think child abuse doesn’t happen here, the sad truth is it does.

What can you do to help? We teach our children from early on to look both ways before they cross a street, to always wear a seatbelt and to say no to drugs. For some reason we are embarrassed to talk to our children and those in our care about their bodies and how to keep themselves safe. What about teaching them to say no to unwanted touches or to people who make them feel uncomfortable?

90 percent of the abuses we see at Safe harbor have been perpetrated by trusted family members, or friends of adults in their lives. Often perpetrators will specifically target single parents to befriend them just to gain access to their children. Click on the Family Watchdog icon at www.safeharborcac.com to check out registered sex offenders in the area, or go to Tennessee’s registered Sex Offender List.

We need to teach our children the proper anatomical terms for their private body parts, teach them that no one should touch their private parts (those are the ones that are covered by their bathing suits) except to keep them clean and healthy. If someone tries to or does touch them, or wants to play a game with body parts to tell you or someone they trust, and to keep telling until someone believes them.We  compound the travesty of child abuse when we ignore the signs.

Trust your instincts and trust your children because it shouldn’t hurt to be a child. To Report Suspected Child Abuse call the state of Tennessee Hotline at 1-877-237-0004, it’s the law.

Donna J. Koester

Executive Director

Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center