Continuing the Conversation Blog
Could Josh Duggar Be Your Son? Four Things You Need to Know
Friday, May 22, 2015
I awoke to sad news today. Another TV family, in the news, their oldest son guilty of sex crimes as a juvenile.
I am both an optimist and a cynic when it comes to Nineteen Kids and Counting. I want to believe there are families where joy and innocence reign far away from the darkness of this world. But I have to admit, the times I’ve watched the show, I’ve looked for shades of gray—hints of the imperfect. Looking for something, anything that’s relatable to my life beyond viewing the typical childish behavior and parental responses to temper tantrums, spilled milk, and adolescent eye rolling.
But even the cynic in me didn’t want to see this breaking story—the Duggar news report. Nobody wants to see this, let alone process, or discuss this.
And that’s part of the problem.
When it comes to sexual abuse, we still live in a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil society. We want to push childhood sexual abuse into the darkness, and like most bacteria that is where it breeds.
I will not comment on the details regarding the Duggar case, it’s far too early. I will leave that to the authorities.
But I will share with you what I have learned from children, law enforcement, and survivors. I not only want to help you protect your kids from CSA, but also from predatory behavior. Because yes, even if you have attempted to shelter your children from the world, they can still be molested . . . and they can still molest.
Here are four things you need to know to protect your children from developing predatory behavior:
- Teach your children respect for their bodies and others’ bodies. This begins by embracing the natural curiosity of children, including their sexuality. Teach the proper names for body parts. Children have fingers and toes. They also have a penis or vagina. Kids are masters at taking our emotional temperatures. When we use silly words to label their penis or vagina or act embarrassed about their private areas, they pick up on it. We push their natural curiosity into a dangerous corner, which shames them, silences them, and leaves them to face their sexuality alone.
Children who are taught respect for their bodies, are more likely to respect themselves and others.
- Instruct your children that no one is allowed to touch the area where their swimsuit covers, nor are they allowed to touch others where their swimsuit covers. Ask any elementary school teacher and they will tell you little boys engage in this behavior with each other often. They think it’s funny. But children have adults in their lives to teach them otherwise. Support all of those tireless teachers out there and teach your kids body boundaries.
Children who are taught body boundaries are more likely to respect their bodies and others.
- Monitor your child’s input. We live in a culture that is molesting our children—taking away their innocence every day. Images and lewd comments bombard them. We need to minimize inappropriateness as much as possible and use each unfortunate encounter as a teachable moment. Put filters/blocks on their devices, keep their iPads, iPods, laptops, and tablets out of their rooms at night, and do random checks. Teach the value of accountability which they can implement into their lives and take with them as they grow. Ask them questions with each news report, school incident, and billboard. “What did you think about the Duggar story trending today? Was the boy in the North Penn School District respecting women when he shared the nude photos of his classmates? What do you think that car company is selling on the billboard we just passed?” Questions help children process. Listening helps us know how to guide their thinking.
Children who are monitored, heard, and given guidance and tools for self-protection and accountability, are more likely to respect themselves and others.
- Model respect for the human body in your own behavior. What do you watch, listen to, or have hidden in your computer files? Detective Diane Obbema has investigated over 300 child sex crimes. In her excellent book, Protecting Innocence, she writes, “Hiding porn for private viewing is no guarantee it won’t be discovered. I know this because many children have told me they have viewed it and where their parents’ stashes were located” (Obbema, 2015, p. 50). She also writes, “Viewing such images can become a catalyst for a child to act out sexually. Every teenage sex offender I have interviewed had pornography as part of his life—every single one!” (Obbema, 2015, p. 51).
Parents who respect themselves and others’ bodies, inspire their children to respect their own bodies and others.
This morning I silence the optimist in me, regarding the Duggar family, that says, Never! I don’t believe it! I also quiet the cynic in me, because there is no time for I knew it! I knew that family has issues too.
According to the Duggar news report, an adolescent committed a crime. Children were hurt.
Adolescents will continue to commit crimes against children. And children will continue to be hurt, until we are willing to understand this evil, discuss this evil, and speak truth regarding this evil.
It is up to each and every adult to begin the discussion to protect our children from molestation and protect them from becoming a child who violates. I know we can make a difference.
And I will remain optimistic, but I will not be silent.
Carolyn Byers Ruch is the Founder of Rise and Shine Movement and Author of the children’s book, Rise And Shine: A Tool for the Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse. She has spent the past ten years championing the issue of childhood sexual abuse and has received training certificates from some of the leading organizations dedicated to protecting children. A former teacher and mother of seven, her life has been enriched through adoption and foster care.
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