Recently we took the opportunity to read "Lauren's Kingdom" by Lauren Book. Lauren Book, Founder and CEO of Lauren's Kids, is also a survivor of child sexual abuse. She took her childhood experience and provided a very relatable, appropriate yet unequivocal account which easily sparked discussion between me and my kids. The book provides a platform where children of all ages can be engaged and parents can feel comfortable asking questions about the story and then relate the information to their own family experience or self education.
My daughters were impressed with Lauren's ability to persevere and share her story. My oldest said, "You know, she did a really good job at helping people talk about bad stuff that happens". It's true. All too many times victims do not feel empowered enough to take a stand against their predators, let alone share their experience with the world. It is my hope that more parents, child advocates, mentors and teachers can begin to empower children to use their voice in ways that will help them to help themselves.
I believe that education is two-fold. On one hand, we need resources like "Lauren's Kingdom" to educate children to speak up and know that when adults are inappropriate, it's ok to tell. On the other hand, resources like "Lauren's Kingdom" assists parents because it provides an opportunity to spark discussion. But parents need to take this one step further. Educate yourself. Be aware of the possibilities- because anything is possible. Your child should see you as an ally, a resource and place of stability. Reassure them that there should be no shame or fear involved when they come to you honestly and openly.
According to a survey taken by theUS Department of Justice, 60% of child predators know the family but are not related to the family. This means that the bulk of child rape and molestation cases reported in this survey occurred because an adult welcomed into a family's inner circle decided to take advantage of a child. This is really important as it is often uncomfortable for parents to believe that their best friend, a neighbor, a babysitter/nanny, the older kid next door, a coach or teacher or anyone else you welcome around your family would not respect your child the way that you do. We have this stigma about what a sex offender looks like- the creepy old man that lures young children into his basement. This guy exists, but predators come in all shapes and sizes, ages, races, economic classes, occupations and genders. It is critical for us to think about this and talk with our children openly.
95% of sexual abuse could be prevented through some means of education. This statistic is promising because there is something that can be done to protect our children. Just as you talk with your children about looking both ways before they cross the street or wearing their helmet when they get on their bicycle, you need to have continued dialogue about this with your child from the moment they understand you to the moment they walk out your door as an adult. This cannot be a one and done conversation, this must occur regularly and with more frankness as your child grows older.
Childhood memories should be filled with joy, excitement and nuance, not pain or shame. We hope that you take this opportunity to speak with your child regularly and candidly about child predators and sexual abuse. This is not a taboo topic and what's promising is that through education and honest discussion, we can each create one less statistic.
Need a deeper dive? We talk about this topic all the time on our site because we really believe that over communication is better than none at all. Check out:
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.