Child Abuse Prevention: Mommy, He Touched Me

As most of America I am sickened by the events that have taken place on the Penn State campus.  The thought of innocent children being subjected to perverted adult activity causes a lump in my throat.  I am not sure if I am more angry or sad.  What I do know is that this cannot happen to other children.
After reading the entire grand jury report, I found myself longing to get home to my own 10 year old son.  I could not help but to transform the words I read into a visual of my own son being assaulted. I had this yearning to protect him from every evil thing that lurks in this world. As tears filled my eyes my mind began to race.  Had I ever talked to him about inappropriate touches?  What about the times I sent him off to church camps, had he been touched there? What if someone already touched him and I failed to protect him!!??

Quickly my fears engulfed me and I could barely breathe.  I turned my gaze back to the internet and stared aimlessly at the photo of Sandusky.  Look at this guy!! I would be completely comfortable with him being around my family. Heck, he even looked like a few of my neighbors!  What does a child molester look like?  How will I know if my child is safe?  Where is this paranoia coming from?

When I got home my 10 year old was laying on the couch watching t.v.  I paused for a moment, tears again filling my eyes.  Slowly I walked over to him, sat down and hugged him.  He embraced me.  I sat up and looked him in the eye and I said, “Do you know the difference between a good touch and a bad touch?”  He tilted his head slightly and looked puzzled.  I took a deep breath and explained to him that since he was a big boy and knew how to wash himself up and wipe himself after going to the bathroom, NO ONE should ever touch his private parts. This includes family, teachers, coaches and bus drivers.

He sat up a little realizing that I was having a serious conversation with him. I went on to tell him that his doctor may touch him, but that I would either be there with him or tell him in advance that it was going to happen.  Then I held my breath and asked THE QUESTION. “Honey, has anyone ever touched you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable?”  He paused as if to truly think about it. “No mommy.”  My heart started beating again and I said, “If someone did, you know you could tell me. Regardless if they threaten to hurt me or your family if you do. You understand?”  He said “Yes, mommy. Are you okay?”  I smiled and hugged him.

I realized where all of my fear was coming from.  I remember this 7 year old little girl who was invited to a birthday party at a friend’s house. It was a sleepover and she was really excited.  The party was awesome and all the girls participated in making a cake.  The father asked the girl if she would like to ice the cake.  She had always wanted to ice a cake. Happily she accepted.  When she was finished icing the cake, all the girls took a piece.  That cake was yummy!

Later that evening as she laid on the floor in her Barbie sleeping bag amongst 12 other little girls, the father snuggled next to her.  That night that man stole that little girl’s innocence. Her experience that night shaped her perception of love, men and sex.

Because the activity that took place that night on the floor, the little girl always ran her bath water extremely hot in hopes of washing away the feeling she had.  One evening she after drawing her bath, she realized that the water was too hot.  She attempted to adjust the faucet to cold and fell in the water. This resulted in 2nd and 3rd degree burns all over her little body.  She spent 41 days in the hospital and endured 3 surgeries.

The little girl did not tell her mother about the night her innocence was stolen until she was 26 years old.  Her mother was extremely angry because she trusted the family where the little girl spent the night.  They were members of the church she attended and the father was a firefighter.  The mother was perplexed at how this could happen.  She was further disturbed that her daughter did not talk to her about this, especially since they had a great relationship.

This story is the life story of many women and men.  The above story just so happens to be my story.  My mother was an awesome woman and an awesome mother. She took great care of me and made sure I was in church every Sunday.  She fed me healthy meals, taught me responsibility and was extremely involved in my school.  However, in all that she did, she never prepared me for that night on the floor.  She did not explain to me that this could happen nor how to talk about it when it did.

The truth is that there are many really twisted, sick people in the world.  We will not always be able to protect our children, but we have to prepare them to protect themselves.  I encourage you to use the Penn State scandal to start a conversation with your children.  Express the importance of not keeping secrets.  Tell them how important it is for them to talk to you if an adult makes them uncomfortable.  If they are aware of another child who had an adult in their life hurting them, let your child know that they can talk to you.  Do not assume that they know.  I was an honor roll student, and I did not know.