No one wants their child to be a victim of a child predator, but how does one protect their children from child abusers? Particularly now, with internet predators, caregivers may feel helpless, but there are steps that can be taken to protect your children from child predators.
Reducing the Risk of Child Offender Victimization
While nothing a caregiver does will absolutely prevent sexual abuse, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of child offender victimization. Consider these steps to protect someone you love from child predators:1
- Be watchful – always be on the lookout for situations or behaviors that seem dangerous or suspicious. Always know where your child is.
- Monitor online activities – know what you child does online to prevent access by online child predators.
- Check policies – check child protection policies at organizations that interact with your child. For example, what is the policy on screening the people that coach soccer? Does the organization check the sex offender registry?
- Be with the child – accompany the child to public places like washrooms, stores and activities.
- Communicate – be sure the child understands that he (or she) can tell you anything, even if he is afraid.
- Rehearse – use "what if" scenarios to be sure a child knows what to do if a questionable situation arises. For example, "what would you do if you played a game with an adult that made you feel uncomfortable?" or, "what would you do if someone touched your private parts?"
- Teach assertiveness – teach a child how to stand up to a child in an assertive manner. Make sure a child understands that being a good child doesn't mean just "blind obedience" to whatever any adult says.
- Teach accurate names – label the body parts using the correct terms and use accurate names for sex acts as developmentally appropriate. Make sure the child knows that it's not OK for someone to touch his private parts.
- Model appropriate behavior – show a child what a healthy relationship between an adult and child should look like. Adults are not interested in child companionship and friendship. Children are friends with other children and adults are friends with adults.
Read about Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse.
Behavior that May Indicate a Sexual Predator
If a sexual predator is already in the life of a child, there are behaviors that can tip off a caregiver. A child offender is always going to look for access to the child and time alone with the child and any adult looking for these things in unreasonable amounts is suspicious.
Signs of a Child Predator
According to the Canadian Center for Child Protection, things a child predator might do include:
- Seem overly interested in the child or become fixated on the child
- Create opportunities to be alone with the child
- Give special privileges to a child (rides to and from practices, etc.)
- Befriending a family and showing more interest in building a relationship with the child than with the adults
- Displaying favouritism towards one child within a family
- Finding opportunities to buy a child gifts
- Catering to the interests of the child, so a child or the parent initiates the contact
None of these behaviors in and of themselves prove that a person is a sexual predator, but together they may make a caregiver suspicious.
Overall, the most important thing to teach your child is personal safety and create a safe space for him to tell if anything bad has happened. Child predators are much less likely to target children they think will talk about the abuse.