October 24, 2011

When a Warped Fear of Pedophiles Turns to a Shaming of Girls

The potential presence of pedophiles has been the recurring argument against my plea that we do not shame young girls into thinking they need to cover up but boys don't. But consider this: 90% of the time the child knows her/his abuser. Do the men (and women) who argue that little girls need to cover up--"because pedophiles don't go around wearing a sign"--worry about how they themselves might react to topless little girls? And if so, how do we respond to the argument that what kids wear (or don't wear) in their own families' backyards is one thing, as opposed to what they "ought" to wear at a public pool?
Despite the stereotypes of a stranger in a trench coat hanging around the playground, the sex offender is most likely someone the child knows and trusts. Sexual abusers are fathers, mothers, stepparents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, neighbors, babysitters, coaches, and spiritual leaders.
I quote the above from a brochure I picked up at the local fire station on "Child Sexual Abuse" (published by The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR). The brochure also states that the best way to protect a child is by education:
Education is the best defense against child sexual assault. An educated child has the ability to recognize dangerous/uncomfortable situations and will be more likely to tell you if abuse has occurred.

In order to protect children, teach them:
  • to feel good about themselves [and not ashamed!]
  • the difference between safe and unsafe touches [meaning we also have to teach children about pleasure and that they have the right to say yes to that which feels safe and good to them, but not to that which does not feel safe and good]
  • that their bodies belong to them and no one has a right to hurt them
  • that safety rules apply to all adults, not just strangers
  • that the can say "no" to requests that make them feel uncomfortable
  • to report to you if any adult asks them to keep a secret
  • that they can rely on you to believe and protect them
  • that they are not to blame for sexual abuse [i.e. don't place the burden and blame on the child]
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before age 18, states the brochure. If so, this can change. If we as parents and educators ensure positive and comprehensive sex education, we can make a difference.


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