Danger Isn’t Always a Stranger

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When it comes to child sexual abuse, only teaching your child Stranger Danger is insufficient to keep them safe. In fact, the majority of children who are sexually abused are perpetrated by someone they know, love, or trust.

At Defend Innocence we often use the phrase, “Danger isn’t always a stranger.” It reminds us that we need to be vigilant about who comes in contact with our children and when and where they have access to them.

While we still suggest that you teach your children about Stranger Danger, you should also introduce your children to the concept of Safe Strangers (firefighters, police officers, etc.) as well as introduce them to the idea that they can confide in you if a trusted individual in their life is making them feel uncomfortable.

Here are four ways to change your thinking from Stranger Danger to Danger Isn’t Always a Stranger:

Look at your circle of trust. 

Take a close look at all the people who have access to your children. Whether or not you think they are capable of sexually abusing your child is immaterial. Perpetrators are often people you trust. Learn meaningful ways to monitor your child’s interactions with those in your circle of trust.

Give your child permission to say NO.

Let children know that they are in charge of their body and that no one is allowed to touch them without permission. Don’t force them to hug or kiss someone. Respect your child’s right to say no and encourage him or her to be vocal about it if someone touches them in ways that make them uncomfortable.

Make your circle of trust aware.

Let the people closest to your child know what boundaries you’ve set. Educate them on the things that you’re teaching your child. Let them know not to force your child to give hugs or kisses. Let them know about the concept of safe touch and uncomfortable touch. Just understanding that you are aware of the risks reduces the likelihood that a perpetrator will target your child.

Confront with kindness.

If you become uncomfortable with how someone interacts with your child, pull them aside and talk to them about your concerns.  It is not necessary to accuse them of abuse to get their attention.  However, if you know abuse has occurred do not approach the perpetrator.  Allow the authorities to do so.

The bottom line: be aware of who is spending time with your child. Educate yourself on the grooming patterns of perpetrators and the signs of sexual abuse. Let your child know that you are there for them, and keep talking to them about healthy sexuality as they grow. Remember, danger isn’t always a stranger, but given the right tools you can reduce the risk of danger from any side!