Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Is my child vulnerable?

Most parents worry about whether or not their children are vulnerable to be molested. Those that don't, should.

The short, simple answer to this question is "yes". Your child is vulnerable. All children are. However, some children are more vulnerable than others. So which children are more vulnerable?

Who gets targeted?

The children who are targeted are often the outsiders. The are the unpopular kids, always hanging around the fringes of their peer groups. They have low self-esteem, they lack confidence and they are isolated from their peers. They have weak social skills. They are lonely and desperate for attention, affection and acceptance.

It is their desperation and their isolation that makes them vulnerable. To a sexual predator, a lonely, isolated child is a child who will respond well to grooming. The predator will seek out this child, and give him what he craves - attention, validation, acceptance, love. He will make the child, who is used to feeling like an outcast, feel special. He will become this child's "friend", or even his substitute parent, with all the ramifications that bring. Soon, the child will be ready to follow his lead in anything.

The second most important factor is how the child is supervised. An unsupervised child is a child that is available to be approached by a predator. Sexual predators often place themselves in positions where they become the supervisors - babysitters, sport coaches, teachers, religious leaders, leaders of youth groups and clubs, all have proven to attract disproportionate numbers of child sexual predators.

Repeat abuse

Statistically, a history of sexual abuse leaves a child more vulnerable to be abused again. To me, as a survivor, this is easy to understand. A child who has been abused, has had his self-esteem shattered. Childish innocence have been replaced with guilt and shame. He will be unable to relate to his peers in an age-appropriate manner. He will be lonely and isolated. He will become an easier target for every consecutive predator.

The gay child

One thing that strikes me as too consistent to be co-incidence, is the number of male survivors who identify themselves as gay. I do not believe that sexual abuse can "turn" a boy gay. I do not think that it is a co-incidence that a disproportionate number of gay boys fall into the "extremely vulnerable" category - ostracised, isolated, rejected. Low self-esteem and lack of confidence.

I am strongly of the believe that men don't "become" gay because of sexual abuse - quite the reverse. Gay boys are sexually abused because their homosexuality in a homophobic society makes them vulnerable. With this in mind, I believe that every person who promotes homophobia in any way, shape or form, is personally responsible for leaving innocent children vulnerable to sexual abuse. They are complicit in the sexual abuse of gay boys.

Is my confident, outgoing child safe?

No. A confident, outgoing child is less at risk, but no child is safe. Your child could just as easily be at the wrong place, at the wrong time as any other child. Sexual predators are often opportunistic. They may molest a child simply because they have easy access to him. So always be aware for the signs that someone might be grooming your child, or that your child has been abused. Always apply the lessons leant from the Sandusky trial.

So what do you do, as a parent?

First and foremost, build your child's self-esteem and teach him social skills. You child may be naturally shy or introverted, but good social skills will help him make friends in spite of this. 

Be available to your child. Even if you are forced by circumstances to spend long hours away form your child, be sure to spend as much one-on-one time as possible with your child, and be emotionally available. The more attention-deprived a child is, the more likely he is to respond positively to attention from a predator. 

Be very careful about who you trust to look after your child. If any adult shows a tendency to single your child out for special attention, be extremely cautious. Remember that sexual predators are usually kind and loving people who easily gain other's trust through good acting and/or clever manipulation. 

Be supportive of your child, even if he seems "different". Not all children will fit the mould. Not all children should fit the mould. So be extra-vigilant if yours doesn't, and make sure that you attend to any social problems with his peer group.

Be aware. Be vigilant. Educate yourself - knowledge is power!

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