What could be more important than the safety of our children? It goes without saying that children should be able to grow and thrive in this world safely, without threat or harm. In light of the recent Jessica Ridgeway tragedy here in Colorado, this is a topic weighing heavily on many hearts and minds. How can we keep our children out of harm’s way, yet flourishing, in a world laced with risks and uncertainty?
Recently I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in the parental segment of the Child Assault Prevention (CAP) presentation at my children’s school. This was an invaluable experience and I found myself taking copious notes, wanting all my friends and family to be equipped with the same knowledge, statistics, and strategies that I was learning. I’d like to share those notes and reflections with all of you in a 5-part child safety and empowerment series this week. Welcome to “Child Safety Awareness Week” on my blog.
CAP was designed with the belief that children should be able to come and go safely in the world, and have the core rights to be safe, strong, and free. There is an emphasis on the importance of community helping our children learn to be safe around everyone. We all play a role, and the more we know, the better we can advocate for our kids.
The 3 most common threats to our children are bully/assault, stranger abduction, and sexual abuse. Because sexual assault is unfortunately the most common type of assault our children will experience, most of the information I will relay is related to this.
Empowering & Protecting Our Children From Sexual Predators
The national statistics regarding sexual abuse are staggering. Hearing that 33% of girls, and 17-25% of boys (most likely a low estimate due to a lack of reporting) experience sexual abuse at least once before the age of 18 shook me. I can’t help but think in terms of my own children and their cousins and friends. One in three girls starts to add up very quickly. My daughter has 5 female cousins. Statistically 2 of these girls will be violated sexually by the time they reach adulthood. Unacceptable. I refuse to let her become a statistic.
Just as bothersome is the fact that 90% of time sexual perpetrators know their victims. Most of these convicted predators are men, and 30-40% of them are under the age of 18. This was the case with the Jessica Ridgeway kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder less than 15 miles from my home this fall. Jessica’s alleged attacker is a 17-year-old male who lived in her neighborhood, though it isn’t clear if they knew each other. It seems unfathomable to most of us that someone so young could prey on a child in this way.
The average onset of sexual abuse is 3-4 years old, and the average span of abuse is 6-7 years. This left me worrying about my 4-year-old son and if I’d adequately prepared him to handle the possibility that someone could prey upon him. I was also stunned thinking about how deviously skilled these predators must be to violate a child repeatedly for 6 or 7 years without being reported.
This brings me to the last shocking statistic, and one of the saddest: 87% of sexual abuse cases go unreported to authorities. This is evidenced by anonymous surveys administered at colleges nation-wide. How can we help protect our children if these criminals aren’t prosecuted and removed from their everyday life?
Be sure to check back tomorrow to find out the reasons sexual abuse goes unreported and what we can do to help our children.