I think a lot of parents shy away from talking to their children about protecting themselves from sexual predators because it is awkward and uncomfortable. And frankly, I think a lot of parents think this could never happen to their children. Let me tell you something... sexual predators are EVERYWHERE! They can be lawyers, doctors, teachers, neighbors and even family members. I guarantee you know of at least one person who was sexually molested as a child. And those are just the ones who have talked about it.
Just thinking about anything happening to one of my boys brings anger and violent thoughts up in me that I never thought I could be capable of. I will never understand the sick and tortured minds of these sexual deviants but my job is not to understand them... it's to protect my children from them. And I will do everything in my power to make sure I do that.
I am posting this only so you know the importance of talking with your kids about this so they can protect themselves. No one can protect their children 24 hours a day so we have to teach them, from a very young age, to self protect and we have to encourage open communication with our kids. I asked my pediatrician how to approach this subject with Garrison when he was about 3. He had been in daycare since he was about 6 months and while I trusted all of his teachers I knew it was something we would need to discuss. The doctor's advice was that you make the conversation age appropriate and you discuss often. Here are some examples of how I have handled this discussion over the years.
3-4 years old: "Garrison, no one is allowed to see or touch anything your underwear cover except Mommy and Daddy. If anyone sees or touches you where your underwear cover you have to tell Mommy and Daddy." I make him repeat this as good as he can. I used to have this conversation with him about every two weeks as a refresher.
5-6 years old: "Garrison, remember no one should ever be able to see or look at your private parts. If anyone tries to touch you or asks to see any of your private parts you yell, kick, scream, bite, anything you have to do to get someone else's attention and get away from them. Then you tell a grown up if Mommy and Daddy aren't around and then you tell Mommy and Daddy when you see us again."
Garrison has started to be more inquisitive when I tell him to stay close to me in public or when we talk about these things. I finally got to the point where I just tell him the truth. I tell him there are some really bad people in this world who make bad choices. He has asked me before why anyone would want to take a kid. I have told him that there are some bad people who could take a kid and want to hurt them. I know that by telling my son these things I am taking his overly optimistic and innocent view of the world down a couple of notches. But we don't live in a world of roses and sunshine beams. Our kids, to a certain extent and at the right age, have to be aware of the kind of world they live in and the dangers that can go along with that.
I also encourage you to be observant of your surroundings. I remember a time when I was driving through my neighborhood and a car had stopped on the side of the road with their window down and they were talking to a kid who was walking home from school. I pulled up right behind the car and rolled down my window and said (in a VERY loud voice) to the boy, "Do you know this person?" The child shook their head. The car drove off. I stayed in my car so as not to scare the kid and told him he needs to go straight home and not talk to strangers. And I drove very slowly making sure I watched that kid walk home. Maybe that idiot was asking for directions. Maybe they were asking what time school got out. Who knows?! But I know I would have felt awful if I did nothing and later heard there was an abduction in my neighborhood.
Please protect your kids and teach them to protect themselves. That is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a parent.