- Family and Parenting»
Prevent Stories of Child Abuse
by Kathy Batesel
Turning a Blind Eye
News stories often report arrests of people who committed child abuse, and quite often, the child's parent was present or even encouraged their child's victimization. While I'm not so naïve to think that everyone believes parenthood is a wonderful gift and would go to great lengths to protect their kids, I've come to recognize that even good parents can expose their children to unnecessary, traumatic harm.
Yesterday, I was privy to a disturbing and shocking online conversation. A child predator approached a young mom and targeted her daughter. I was stunned by his blatant approach, but I was even more disturbed by mom's response.
Keep reading to learn about how she responded, why she behaved the way she did, and what she could have done differently.
Should parents who don't protect their children from abuse serve jail time?
My husband and I were playing Zynga Poker on our cell phones, something we do a couple times a week. Three other people were in the virtual card room - a guy whose avatar showed a photo of himself. He was in his mid-to-late twenties if the photo was recent, but who knows how old he really might be? There was another player whose name and photo were ambiguous. We couldn't tell if it was a man or woman. Finally, a young mom whose photo showed her holding her toddler daughter. I guessed her age to be mid-twenties, and her lovely daughter was around three or four.
We'd been in the room only minutes when the man, I'll call him "Loser," approached the woman, who I'll call "Too Polite." Loser said "Hi Too Polite." She replied with a simple hello.
"Is that your girl? What's her name?" Loser asked.
Too polite says, "Yeah. Matty."
Loser continues. "She's really cute. How old is she? Is she right there with you?"
Too Polite says, "She's 3. Ya, here with me."
Loser's next questioned prompted me to speak up. "Where are you guys located?"
I tapped out my own response. "This is creepy. Seriously? You need to get a life with someone your own age, guy."
Too Polite's finally catching on, I guess, as her next message is, "Too far."
It appears on my screen at the same time as Loser's reply to me: "LOL." I know this stands for "laughing out loud." A moment later, he answers her, "Ya, too far and cost too much with my girlfriend." I don't know exactly what he meant by that, but I'm happy that the subject goes quiet. The peace only lasts a minute, though, before he sends one of those virtual "gifts," a slice of pizza, to Too Polite. "That's for Matty," he writes.
Too Polite says, "I'll give it to her."
My husband and I are flabbergasted and disgusted as we talk about what we're seeing. I typed out another message, "Dude, you are sick. Get lost."
He types, "LOL."
Too Polite types, "LOL," too. Her response makes me wonder if they might actually be acquainted and are pulling a stunt to see how people respond.
He types, "I'm too good looking to be sick. Matty would agree."
Too Polite sends another LOL his way. I don't bother to respond. My husband and the other person in the room are equally silent as the card game continues. A few minutes later, Loser says, "Gotta go. Tell Matty she's a cutie. And you're not bad, either, Too Polite."
She says, "Thanks. Take care." The moment he's gone, she says, "I'm glad he left. That was weird."
I can't help myself. I write, "You're way too nice to someone like that." This is a mild version of what I want to say and do, because inside, I'm boiling and want to shake some sense into her!
She says, "I know."
What Would You Do?
How would you have handled Loser?
Parent Responsibility for Protecting a Child
I was glad this was an online room and that Matty probably would not ever meet Loser in her "real" life, but at the same time, I felt sad realizing that this woman would be easy for a child predator to groom so he could gain access to her child. I felt angry and helpless that I couldn't take action to stop Loser from targeting and grooming children in his own world, wherever that may be.
Matty is not my child. I'm not responsible for her well-being. I can't save the world from predators like Loser. But every parent has the duty to protect his or her own children, and being like Too Polite fails to provide that protection.
Physical, Emotional, and Neglectful Abuse
Child molesters aren't the only perpetrators that get away with pushing their agendas beyond acceptable limits. Thousands of children are beaten, emotionally abused, or neglected every year because the people who see what's happening don't speak up. Instead, they are "too polite" and turn a blind eye.
Children need protection.
If you are in a position to speak up, you have a moral duty to.
Food for Thought
- Checklist Mommy Says...
Stop teaching your child about "stranger danger" and teach this instead!
Stories of Child Abuse are Too Common
As a former prison guard, parent, and survivor of extensive sexual abuse, I've become acquainted with many predators and former victims and their stories. Many survivors look back on their trauma and realize that their own parent either contributed directly to their victimization or refused to take responsibility for protecting their child.
A young woman I'll call N.A. told on her stepbrother, who raped her several times when she was in first and second grade. Her stepmother, the boy's mother, told her to stop making up lies. N.A. was afraid to tell her father after that, and in fact, carried her secret for over a decade before finally sharing her dreadful secret with another trusted adult who didn't doubt her.
Another child, D.C., was raped by a neighbor boy two years older when she was eight. It happened in the basement of the house where she lived while her father was upstairs. She was afraid to tell him. She told her mother, who lived in another state. Her mom called her father and asked him to report it. His response was denial. She remembers hearing him tell her mother, "He's a nice boy. He wouldn't do something like that!"
My own mother was also in the "Too Polite" camp. She'd walked in and found my father molesting me when I was a baby and said, "Maybe you should stop. You'll start her up early if you do that." I learned this from the journals my father kept while he was in the prison's counseling program.
People who are too polite place other things ahead of their child's well-being:
- They are afraid of confrontation.
- They're worried about their own image.
- They may fear loss of household income.
- They may fear loss of a relationship or friendship with the abuser or the abuser's family members.
- They may be afraid they won't be believed, either.
Any of these factors can prevent a parent from protecting their children. And to all of them, I say, "HOGWASH!" Your future self-image and community reputation, as well as your financial and emotional well-being are closely tied to how well you take care of your children.
Stop a Predator
Child predators are motivated to commit their crimes because it lets them gain a sense of power where they don't feel they have any. They may use a violent or a seductive approach to achieve their goal, but the one sure way to protect a child is to strip them of the power to reach your child.
Being polite only encourages them to try more!
The conversation Loser had with Too Polite is only unusual because it was so public. Conversations like this one go on day after day. Loser discovers that Too Polite will not take a firm stand, so he keeps pushing to see how far he can go. When he pushes too far, Too Polite will finally speak up. He'll back off his intensity a bit, but keep saying and doing things that she's shown she won't object to. As she gets more accustomed to these violated boundaries, he finds that he, not she, controls what boundaries will be in place. Once she has adjusted fully, he can push further than he could before, and it won't seem like a big or drastic change. Instead of buying a gift for her daughter, he might take her daughter shopping. After a few shopping trips, he might be the one who lets the child buy sexy panties, for instance.
Speaking up early, loudly, and firmly are the keys to stopping abuse. Polite is what lets it continue.