Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? Take a minute to transport yourself back in time to when you were a child and imagine this scenario:

You’re lonely. You don’t feel quite yourself at home. You don’t feel quite yourself at school. Things are changing and you can’t seem to catch up. Life feels overwhelming.

But then you make a friend. This friend is easy to talk to, understands what you’re going through, and makes you laugh. Things don’t seem as hard or strange or overpowering with your new friend by your side. You can do anything.

On the surface, this seems like a sweet story about a new friendship. Unfortunately, it is also the story of how perpetrators groom children for abuse. They build them up, gain their trust, and—over time—sexually abuse them.

Why Abused Children May Stay Silent

Many children never tell about their abuse. In some cases it’s because they’re scared, but in others it’s because they genuinely love their abuser. This person cared about them when no one else did.

At first it may seem hard to understand why a child would protect an adult who is sexually abusing them, but it makes more sense if you think of that adult as the child’s best friend. That’s what the perpetrator has made the child believe.

What can you do, as a parent or caregiver, to make your child a more difficult target?

Take an Interest in What’s Going on in Your Child’s Life

Divorce, death, a new sibling, moving, or any other drastic change can leave a child feeling out of control and overlooked. You may be feeling that way yourself in a few of those situations, but it’s your responsibility to be the safe space for your child. Make sure that no matter what is happening, your child can talk to you about it.

Imagine yourself as a kid again. You’re lonely. But when you come home every day, you’re greeted with a hug, a smile, some kind words. Your mom or dad asks about your day and genuinely wants to hear your answer. When you talk about your problems, they listen!

Now change your role. Be the parent in that scenario. How does that feel? How will it make your child feel?

Spend some time today with the child in your life and make sure that they know how much you care and that you’re there for them when they need you.

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