Summer is fast approaching, and for kids, that means sleep-away camp, babysitters, team sports, and a lot of new adults coming into their lives. So, how do you make sure your children are in safe hands?
It all starts with a simple, and sometimes a uncomfortable, conversation.
Parents worry a lot about stranger-danger. But with sexual abuse, the real threat may be the devil you know. Ninety-percent of the perpetrators are people the kids know and trust.
That's why one abuse expert says you need to be having a tough conversation with any adult who has contact with your child.
Kids need to know they have personal boundaries no one has a right to cross.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Amber McKeen says every adult in your child's life needs to be reminded about what personal contact is okay and what's not.
"So that way they know what's expected and they know the kids know the rules, too. So that kind of puts in people's minds, "Okay, this is a child who isn't vulnerable," said Amber McKeen.
McKeen says the key is to have this same ground rules conversation with babysitters, coaches, caregivers -- anyone who has access to your child.
"It's not something that's like, "I think you're a bad person, and you're going to abuse my kids." It's just, "This I part of my family's personal safety plan and this is something we talk about with everybody," said McKeen.
And there's one more really important question: McKeen says ask each person if they've ever suspected a child was being sexually abused?
"If you're talking to someone who has been a teacher or a daycare provider, and they say, "No! I've never suspected it before, then you have to be, like, "Okay?" Because the reality is one in four girls and one in six boys are going to experience some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18," said McKeen. "And it doesn't necessarily mean they're a bad person, it just might mean they don't know what to look for."
What about the person that your child is in their care? You want to know what to look for.
If the person has heard of an allegation of sexual abuse, McKeen says listen to how they talk about it. Did they take it seriously? Did they report it? Or do they seem to now minimize or dismiss the situation?
It's not an easy conversation but a really important one.
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