Continuing the Conversation Blog
How to Protect Our Special Needs Children from Sexual Abuse
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
It’s a statistic I hesitate to share. Because I know what it’s like to be a mother of a non-typically developing child. I am one.
Like you, I know the extra weight that comes with the territory. It’s pretty much extra everything. Carving out extra time needed, within an already busy life of parenting, for specialists. Building extra patience as we set goals for our children only to discover they were too high . . . or too low. And there’s grieving the loss of the normal, the typical. The end of dreams you had for your child and the energy to discover new ones is an ongoing process for most of us.
That’s why when I stand before an audience, speaking about the prevention of childhood sexual abuse, I’m reluctant to heap another issue onto your already swirling and exhausted head. But to ignore the statistic would be wrong. And to be realistic, I know you’re already sitting there with thoughts like these coursing through your head. But what about my child? My child is different. How do I protect my kid? And for me, to keep quiet would be to put your child at a greater risk for sexual abuse.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and tackle this together. We are stronger together, and I know, I know that I’ll be working along side some of the strongest parents I’ve ever met.
The truth is, our children are at greater risk for sexual abuse. Four times greater. And the complexities that surround the risk are as complicated as our children’s diagnoses. It would be impossible for me to name them for they are as varied as our kids’ personalities and needs.
But here’s the good news: Our precious children, who are at the mercy of so much, do not need to be at the mercy of sexual abuse. We are not without hope. We are not without power. Here are five action steps every parent can take to protect our amazing kids.
- Talk about sexual abuse with your child, even if you don’t know if your child will understand. Our daughter surprises us all the time with issues that she grasps that we never expected her to understand. Our kids aren’t done learning any more than we are. They may need more repetition, but that’s okay. We’re used to repeating ourselves until we’re heard. We’ve had to fight harder for our uniquely created kids. Use the story book videos on our website, because children learn best through story. But, if your child can’t sit for a story, watch it yourself and break down the concepts into simple terms. Tell them that no one is allowed to touch them where their swimsuit covers and use the proper names for their body parts. Watch our five-minute video for further explanation.
- Talk about sexual abuse with all those who are caring for your child. I know, it’s not a subject that generally flows out of conversation. But you can create the conversation with confidence by just jumping in. “Yah know, I need to discuss something with you that is tender, but necessary. I realize that my child is at greater risk for sexual abuse. Can you tell me what your agency is doing to make sure my child is safe?” If they respond with background checks, please press further and educate them. Background checks aren’t enough. They only disclose perpetrators who have been caught and convicted. Most perpetrators are never caught. References must be thoughtfully obtained and thoroughly explored.
- Whenever possible, avoid one-on-one care. Sexual abuse generally happens in private. When your child must be alone with another caretaker, speak up. “Hey, we’re doing all we can to protect our child from sexual abuse. These are the prevention action steps we are using, and we need for you to honor them.” Simply letting the care giver know that you are teaching your child about sexual abuse and you are aware of the dangers of sexual abuse may deter a perpetrator. Perpetrators don’t want to get caught.
- Read the signs of sexual abuse and know them well. And if you have any question as to whether you are seeing a sign, go to your pediatrician immediately. Together you can evaluate whether this could be a symptom of abuse or if it’s related to another issue. (See list of signs here.)
- Report any suspicions you have to the authorities. Then, if you don’t receive an immediate plan of action, and sadly I’ve heard far too many reports of this, then keep looking. See your child’s pediatrician and contact counselors and lawyers who are trained in the complexities of sexual abuse. (See our Get Help page for organizations who can help you find knowledgeable professionals here.) Meet your child’s needs first. Their healing, their mental and physical health trump all else. And even though all those who violate children must be stopped and face justice, sometimes systems fail us . . . and our children. Parents like us understand this all too well.
I think at our gut-level, we know our children are at a greater risk for sexual abuse. But sometimes, what lies within our gut can discourage us, frighten us, and silence us. And that’s why we need each other. So, rise up with me, mama and daddy. We have been fighting battles for our children since the day they were born. Together, we can minimize the risk!
Carolyn Byers Ruch is the founder of Rise and Shine Movement and author of the children’s books, Ana’s Song and Bobby Gilliam, Brave and Strong, both tools 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.
Would your child keep a
secret from you?
Get our FREE video:
What If? Conversation Starters
or never miss a post!
We're moms, just like you, who want to help parents protect their kids from childhood sexual abuse.
You may also like...
She's Already Won the Gold
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Talking to Our Kids about Sex and Sexual Abuse. It's More Than Just the Facts.
Monday, February 22, 2021
When Your Nothing Is Everything
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Children Know the World Is...
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
“Kissing Cousins:" What Mr. Rogers and Daniel Tiger Taught About Sexual Abuse Prevention
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
So, What About Sleepovers?
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
How to Teach Our Children about Sex While We Are Still Their Heroes
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
What If My Child Won’t Talk to Me?
Saturday, June 23, 2018
THANK YOU for donating to Rise and Shine Movement's 5th Annual Stuffed Animal Drive
Thursday, May 24, 2018
One Essential Parenting Decision You Will Never Regret
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Rise and Shine Movement's 5th Annual Stuffed Animal Drive
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Processing the Larry Nassar Childhood Sexual Abuse Case
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Confident Parenting In A "Me, Too" World
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Are You and Your Children Free To Be?
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Three Questions Matt Lauer Should Ask His Children
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
When You Catch Your Child “Playing Doctor”
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Blush-free Family Movie Nights
Friday, July 14, 2017
How You Can Build a Relationship with Your Son by Talking about Porn
Thursday, April 27, 2017
The Day an Innocent Search Turned Up an Image My Son Can’t Erase: 5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe
Thursday, April 20, 2017
How to Speak about Porn and Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child
Thursday, April 13, 2017
How You Can Help Protect Your Son's Innocence By Talking About Pornography
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Will Your Son Know What To Do When Someone Shows Him Porn?
Friday, March 31, 2017
Do Your Children Love Our Stories?
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Why It’s Good for Your Child to Hurt: A Lesson from a Sexual Abuse Survivor
Saturday, January 7, 2017
A New Website, A New Video -- Our gifts to you!
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Two Fearless Questions to Ask Your Child After a Playdate
Thursday, June 23, 2016
4 Things Perpetrators Don't Want Fathers to Know
Monday, June 13, 2016
April Awareness Month Wrap Up
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
2016 Stuffed Animal Drive Underway!
Thursday, March 31, 2016
The Winner Is (Our Bobby Gilliam Book Giveaway)
Monday, February 1, 2016
It's a Bobby Gilliam Book Giveaway!
Monday, January 25, 2016
Why Should I Talk To My Kids About Porn?
Friday, January 22, 2016
Prevention Strategies Around the Holidays
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Your Best Defense Against Childhood Sexual Abuse
Friday, September 18, 2015
Could Josh Duggar Be Your Son? Four Things You Need to Know
Friday, May 22, 2015
Measuring Success for CSA Awareness
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Is Your Child's Summer Camp Safe? Three Questions You Should Ask
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
What If Question Four
Monday, April 27, 2015
Bear Drive Huge Success in 2014
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
What If Question Three
Monday, April 20, 2015
What If Question Two
Monday, April 13, 2015
Protecting Our Kids from Sexual Abuse
Thursday, April 9, 2015
What If Question One
Monday, April 6, 2015
What If Conversation Starters
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
How Moms Can Make A Difference
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Children Don't Tell Because They Protect
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Children Don't Tell Because They Trust
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Children Don't Tell Because They Love
Monday, September 29, 2014
When a Story and a Calling Converge
Thursday, September 25, 2014