4 Rules to Protect Your Children from Sexual Predators

4 Rules to Protect Your Children from Sexual Predators

The following post is based on the class “Speaking to your Children about Personal Safety” presented by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz (Monsey,NY) Principal of the boys elementary school Darchei Noam, and director of project YES. Special thanks to JewishMOM Elisheva Fishleder for sending me the transcribed version of this extremely important class!

IMPORTANT MESSAGES TO GET ACROSS TO YOUR CHILDREN TO PROTECT THEM FROM ABUSE
(1) NO SECRETS! – Teach your children that nobody is ever allowed to tell them to keep a secret from their parents
(a) Remember that your children actually do listen to you, even though it might not always seem that way
(b) A predator always tries to get the child away from their parents. Often the predators accomplish this by telling children that they’ll give them a treat if they keep a secret.
**Tell your children, “If anybody tells you “Don’t tell Mommy or Daddy, you come tell us right away and we’ll give you a treat!”
(c) Story: I once made this presentation to a group of parents…. a full year later, one of the teachers inmy school was making surprise flowers for Shavuos, and the teacher told the kids, “Shhhh, this is a surprise – don’t tell mommy or daddy!” The students were dismissed at 4:15 and by 4:18 my cell phone started ringing because the kids were telling their parents about the teacher’s secret, and asking for their treat – the parents were so excited. This approach REALLY WORKS!
(d) Another Story: There was a substitute school-bus driver one day. A child said, “Who are you, I don’t know you!” That child felt uncomfortable and wouldn’t get on the bus and ran back inside to tell his mother. The mother called me and asked what she should do. I told her, “He listened! You go drive him to school yourself, and get him a treat on the way!”

(2) MY BODY IS MINE – (PERSONAL SPACE)
(a) You must teach your children that their bodies are private – nobody is allowed to touch them and take from them in that way – just like nobody is allowed to take their backpack or their snack.
(b) Analogy: Have your child imagine that a family has gone out to dinner and they’re all eating soup and the kids range in ages from 3 to 15. A stranger just comes over and starts sampling each person’s soup. A 5 year old, even a 3 year old would start protesting, “Hey! This is my soup!” Explain to your child, “My body belongs to me, just like my soup.”
(c) Start thinking like a predator in order to sensitive yourself to dangerous situations (just like a good lawyer or judge has to think like a criminal)…
(d) At a very young age train your children by encouraging privacy. Teach them “This is your drawer” “This is your room” “This is your toy” “We knock before coming into rooms”

(3) IF YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE YOU CAN SAY “NO”
– EVEN TO AN ADULT

(a) Many child victims explain that they didn’t feel they could say “No” to an adult. We must teach our children that they can say “No” if an adult does something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
(b) Story: I was spending some time with my grandson, and I told him, “Dovi, when I play with you, if you don’t like something, just tell me. You don’t have to do anything that’s uncomfortable for you.” We were reading “The Three Little Pigs” and when we got to the part about “Huff and puff and blow your house down” I would blow on Dovi. My grandson, who is not even 4 years old, told me very respectfully, “Zaydie, please don’t blow on me, I don’t like it.”

(4) CERTAIN TOUCHING IS NOT GOOD- SPECIFICALLY DEFINE GOOD TOUCH VS. BAD TOUCH
(a) You should tell your children: “Nobody should touch you on the parts of your body covered by a bathing suit except Mommy or Daddy or your grandparents when we bathe or dress you, and the doctor when he examines you. Be very specific, and be careful to provide NO GLOBAL WAIVERS FOR “FAMILY MEMBERS” or “PEOPLE THAT YOU KNOW”…BY DOING THIS YOU’RE MAKING YOUR CHILD VERY VULNERABLE!!!!!!!!
(b) Many predators are family members who are charming with great social skills. Predators have a sickness. YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO IT COULD BE.
*Example: Mel Levine, a brilliant writer and speaker and advocate for special-needs kids was a sexual predator. Recently over 50 people in their 40s and 50s started coming out and saying that Mel Levine molested them during childhood when they were undergoing psychological evaluations. And this man was world renowned with millions of followers.
(c) Be prepared to get a lot of false positives.
Example: Your child tells you: “A person bumped into my tush on the playground.” Take it seriously, don’t dismiss it. That would confuse your children. Don’t say, “Oh, that’s not what I was talking about”…Instead, discuss it: “He should not be touching you. Who was it? What happened? If this happens again, please tell me about it.” You should take it seriously. (Because if inappropriate touching does seem to be happening often then there might really be something to investigate).

SOME MORE ADVICE
• Your anxiety level when discussing this topic with your children should be pretty low (like 2, 3, 4 out of 10 – otherwise children will get so nervous they won’t be able to concentrate. (The other extreme of no anxiety during this conversation is also not OK, because your children will mistakenly think that this is not such an important conversation, like a request at the dinner table that they not chew with their mouth open, etc.)
• Have a general talk with your children about safety issues (i.e. sharp knives, fire safety, crossing streets) and then lead into this topic…This will make you more comfortable.
• Many children will ask, “Why would anyone touch me there?” Tell them, “There are people out there who are really unwell. It’s not a healthy thing to do and there are people that like doing this to people.”
• Children who are totally naive about their bodies are the easiest to molest. Serial molesters were interviewed in jail and they said, “Show me a child that’s naive and I could do whatever I want to him”
• Tell your child: “Just like we have alarms on our cars and locks on our door, I wouldn’t and you wouldn’t go into someone else’s house, but there are people who do…. likewise, there are people who touch other people’s private parts.

• HOW DOES A MOLESTER START?
Predators rarely go from 0 to 60 with children they totally don’t know. Usually, they abuse children who know them…. and over time more and more lines are crossed.
Possible examples of line crossing: An uncle tickles his nephew. Or someone says to keep a secret from parents…

General PARENTING issues related to maintaining open relationship with your children
You really need to have a close relationship with your children. They must be comfortable telling you that something is uncomfortable for them.
(1) Get in the habit of having your children share their day with you from a very young age. Ask targeted questions rather than generic questions. ***MAKE SURE TO ASK YOUR CHILD AT LEAST ONE TARGETED QUESTION A DAY.”
Example: ASK “How was your chemistry test?” or “How did it go with that boy on the bus?” (rather than a generic “How was your day?”)…Continue conversations from previous days…remember what you spoke about. Really listen to your child with your full attention.
(2) Teach your child that they can discuss ANYTHING with you – even if you’re not going to like it. Tell your kids you want to know about it, “Even if it will upset me.”

Tell your child, “If there’s something going on in your life, I’d rather know and be upset than not know at all.”

CLOSING WORDS
Hurt people, hurt other people…. So many molesters were victims of molestation themselves…and never got help to work through it.

Our children will be safe when every single parent talks to the kids about this.

WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

If your neighbor’s children get abused, your children are vulnerable

SPEAKING TO YOUR CHILDREN CAN BE TORAH-DIK AND TZNIUS-DIK.
HASHEM SHOULD BLESS US WITH NACHAS FROM OUR CHILDREN, PROTECTED FROM THIS STUFF, WE SHOULD RAISE HEALTHY AND WELL-ADJUSTED CHILDREN.

This presentation of “Speaking to Your Children about Personal Safety” is presented as a community service of The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES. Our “Keep Our Children Safe” initiative is designed to raise awareness among parents about the importance of speaking to their children about safety and personal space.

WWW.RABBIHOROWITZ.COM
Or watch the full 33-minute class by Rabbi Horowitz:

Image courtesy of Flickr.com user D. Sharon Pruitt

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27 comments

  1. Really good post. I think the whole picture is important–you can’t think that you’re done after one conversation.

  2. Excellent distillation. It’s still worth watching the whole half-hour video.

  3. Totally agreed, it’s an ongoing conversation. And kids can process a lot more than we give them credit for. I used to think that my kids would get scared if I spoke to them like this, but it’s not true. Kids that have information that they need are more confident kids. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Thanks so much for posting this and summarizing it so well. Its so important. Excellent point at the end about if your neighbors children are molested your children are vulnerable. It is unfortunately a ripple effect. We are all in this together.
    May we see no more of such horrors every again!

  5. Thanks for posting this. Just one thing – does anyone else think that using an uncle tickling a nephew as a possible example of line crossing is too much looking for trouble where there isn’t any? This would seem to be perfectly normal and healthy behaviour ( obviously as long as the nephew is enjoying it and the tickling is in appropriate places). It just makes me uncomfortable that sometimes normal affectionate interactions with children are misinterpreted and everyone starts looking over their shoulder and worrying that people think they are a predator.

    • As a self-defense instructor in this field, I think you are asking an important question that must be addressed.

      Firstly, unfortunately, the statistics are not in our favor. Most perpetrators know their victims and especially in the case of child abuse, a majority of cases actually do happen within the family, with the most likely attacker being a father or stepfather. I know that is a horrible thing to think about, but those are the facts and we must face them.

      Secondly, yes, an uncle tickling his nephew is perfectly appropriate and affectionate behavior. The example he gave in the speech, however, is an example of the “grooming” process in which a perpetrator starts out with innocent behavior and escalates to inappropriate behavior, in order to achieve the trust of the victim and his parents and get the child used to being touched a lot. So how can we tell the difference? We look out for other signs of “grooming”. When the tickling is enjoyable to the child and in the appropriate places, AND THE UNCLE STOPS WHEN THE CHILD ASKS HIM TO STOP, it is most likely appropriate behavior. If the tickling is overly aggressive, if the uncle DOES NOT STOP when asked, and if the child seems unsure or uncomfortable, these can be warning signs. Additional warning signs would be if the uncle seems to find lots of excuses to be alone with the child, if the uncle does not respect the child’s privacy and “accidentally on purpose” barges in on him in the bathroom or brushes up against private parts, if the child shows a particular obsession with his uncle either by wanting to spend a LOT of time with him or by avoiding him and expressing discomfort with him… things like that.

      • I hate being tickled. I think it is cruel to tickle for more than a second. The child laughs so it wrongly looks like he is enjoying it.

        • My son LOVES being tickled, and you can tell because when I stop, he freezes and waits with a huge smile of anticipation on his face and giggles whenever I move closer. Sometimes he’ll say “again!” Many children do loved to be tickled; I did as a young girl. Some children hate it like you do. What I’m saying is, tickling is not categorically cruel; tickling YOU or any other person who hates it would be cruel.

          If the child says “stop”, the tickler should stop. Many times they say “stop” as part of the game, but they should learn that when they say “stop” they should mean it because that request should ALWAYS be respected. However, you can usually tell if the child still wants to play.

          Also, there is a difference between the forced physical laughter of being tickled and the relaxed giggling of having a good time. Just watch the play for a few minutes, watch your child’s reactions carefully, and you will know if something is wrong.

  6. JewishMom

    right, it’s a thin line between vigilant and paranoid. I guess he just means to keep your eyes open, even with close relatives.

  7. This was so helpful, thank you. It’s hard to get into these issues without knowing how to tackle the “why do they want to do that” questions. This definitely clarified things for me.

    Another point, we don’t only have to wait for the child to seem uncomfortable with the “uncle”. Maybe we aren’t entirely at ease with seemingly innocent behaviour ourselves: we shouldn’t feel guilty or silly or paranoid. We are mothers and our instincts are usually spot-on. We just need to be careful to redirect in a tactful and non-eventful way…. I’ve had this niggling feeling before, I thought I was over-the-top until I asked a counsellor who indeed agreed that the behaviour was quite unusual, though seemingly innocent under the circumstances since the person was doing it to his own children (and my daughter) at the time, too.

    Wishing all you Nachlaot mothers much strength and healing.

  8. Daniella,

    Thanks for clarifying!

  9. With all due respect to the author whose writing I read frequently, and admire and learn from, in Mishpacha and other publications, I am afraid that this article adds to the general confusion that many feel about this issue.

    The only things to do to protect your child that apply across the board are

    a) to keep lines of communication open on all topics and

    b) to teach your child to listen to that little voice inside that tells him “something is wrong here, I feel uncomfortable” and to report to their mother no matter what/who/when/where/why it happens

    I think this bathing suit nonsense is ridiculous. Normal adults hug their children/nieces/etc in places not covered by bathing suits, and rub or pat their backs and shoulders which are covered by girls’ bathing suits. In fact we normal affectionate adults are known to give full-body cuddles sometimes, when children are very sad and lonely. But those cuddles don’t make the children feel uncomfortable because they are done in a normal, healthy way.

    And to EXEMPT parents and grandparents?!?!?! Ribono shel Olam, why? Halevye there should be no fathers and grandfathers who molest their children/grandchildren! But there are. If you have taught your child the only two rules that apply across the board (see above), s/he will be protected even from them.

    In my work as senior editor of the N’shei Chabad Newsletter (and mother and grandmother) I have spent a lot of time educating myself on this subject and it hasn’t been fun. Many victims have disclosed to me and we cry together. I have also been involved in cases of false accusations of innocent people. This too is unfair, unforgivable, terrible and destructive. I do not have ruach kakodesh and I can’t know who is telling the truth in cases of two adults debating what happened (or didn’t) decades earlier, but I have learned a thing or two about protecting children.

    Regarding protecting children, it’s those two rules that matter (see above).

    To the best of my knowledge, the best book yet on the market on this topic to read to children is No-No the Little Seal by Sherri Patterson. It was written and first published in 1986 but it is still the best. No confusion. No bathing suit nonsense. No parent/grandparent exemption. And the fact that it is a story about seals makes it more palatable for children. There’s no anxiety because it’s not about human children but about seals – yet when children do need the information (chas v’sholom), they can draw on what they learned about No-No.

    • I believe that the “this makes me uncomfortable” rule should come in addition to, and not as a replacement for, the bathing suit rule.

      If you want to be more specific, call it the bikini rule or the underwear rule (and specifically tell girls that their breasts are included). Or, simply name the specific body parts.

      Children need to understand that those specific areas are private and that NO ONE, INCLUDING Mommy, Daddy and grandparents is allowed to touch or look at them except for two reasons: hygiene or health. Full-body cuddles or embraces are not included in this category, we are talking about specifically touching those areas. Children know how to differentiate.

      The reason we at KidPACT believe it is important to teach about the private areas is because they may not actually feel uncomfortable with the touch that is happening, especially if they are never taught that those areas are private. I can give you an example of a case of incest where the child really believed that her stepfather was just being affectionate and loving. She was never taught that for him to touch her in those places was wrong and she never felt uncomfortable about it. I also know personally of a case where the brother convinced the sister that it was normal for men and women to interact in this way and there was no problem with it, and because she had been educated very openly on these issues but was never taught that those areas are private, she took his word for it.

      In summary, if you don’t want to call it the bathing suit rule, don’t. But DO teach your children about their private areas. It’s important.

  10. Chanel Lipskier

    Right on Mrs. D. Love the book No No the Little Seal. That book and a couple rounds of role play really get the message across loud and clear.

  11. According to the confusing guidelines we often see, if an adult touches a child’s stomach (covered by bathing suit!) why, that could be abuse!

    and if a male teacher asks a girl personal and embarrassing questions in the hallway, that’s no problem.

    Whereas if she is taught NOT about bathing suits and specific inches and yards and which rooms to enter and which not, but about watching out for that little voice inside her that tells her something is wrong, that little voice that says “this is making me really uncomfortable” – and she can talk to her mother about anything — then that is a truly protected child.

  12. Firstly, you are right that sometimes bathing suit areas can get a pat and that is normal- healthy actually. Secondly, what about the legs and other parts that are not covered by a bathing suit, those parts are ok? Thirdly, and the main thing is, kids have good instincts (especially frum girls who cover up a lot of body parts and do not expose themselves except for a bath or shower) and instinctualy children know what kind of touching makes them uncomfortable and the touching could be on their fingertips, not in bathing suit spots, that makes them uncomfortable!

  13. Hmmm…and I was thinking that as soon as they’re potty trained and eventually can bathe themselves, not even mommy should be touching them (let alone anyone else)…I wonder if for this reason preschool kids are most vulnerable? lo aleinu

    sigh…all this information is so overwhelming and scary…we probably also should to make sure not to overwhelm our kids and space out the conversations…

  14. Elisheva, I would hate to raise a generation of touch-starved kids because of “guidelines” — chas v’sholom “not even mommy should be touching them” – unless you mean their privates

  15. every child craves and needs his/her mother’s touch, G-d forbid to withhold it because of the evils in the world, with a misguided sense of “being on the safe side”

  16. a survivor of abuse

    I think the senior editor of the N’shei Chabad Newsletter, the mother and grandmother Rishe Deitsch is right on target, and I thank her for the courage to speak out, take a stand, and to do so by name. Yasher koach, Mrs. Deitsch.
    And for those of you who don’t know, I think Mrs. Deitsch’s magazine the N’shei Chabad Newsletter was the first religious publication to address this most sensitive and imperative of issues.

  17. EllenaSmith

    All parents want to keep their children safe. It is our job as a parent to protect our child from possible sexual harassment and always pay attention with your child and the people in your childs life. Most importantly teach them to trust you with their problems and assure them through your actions and not just your words that they can always bring their problems and concerns to you at anytime. For further knowledge on how you can protect your children. You can visit this link, and you might find it interesting: http://anationofmoms.com/2011/08/protect-your-family-giveaway.html

  18. https://www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-and-the-government-of-israel-pass-similar-laws-to-the-us-regarding-child-molestation – hey, because of reading certain articles on Times Of Israel I decided to create that petition you see above – please sign it. You can keep up with conversation about it here. https://www.facebook.com/events/374529865962556 – please do whatever you can to promote this and get people to sign it – maybe it will make a difference.

  19. angela.smith

    Recently I was informed by the local police that a sex offender had moved into our neighborhood about three blocks away from where we live. My 9-year-old daughter walks home a short distance with her friends from school every day, and also rides her bike in the area. I was very concerned. I don’t want anything to happen to my daughter. I found an application to be installed on a phone that provides safety for you and for your children. It’s a Panic Button installed on a phone that when your children need your help, they can just simply press it and it will immediately alert your childrens’ loved ones including you. If needed, the call can be escalated to the nearest 911 in your area too. Plus, you and your children can view threat level and registered sex offenders in your area. You can check out more interesting features on their website http://Safekizone.com

  20. My father always tickled me constantly when younger. Right the way from my midriff all the way to my chin (passing through my chest area) I always laughed but it was always uninvited and sudden.

    I’ve recently begun questioning sexual stories about other sexual people he seems obsessed with…with him it’s always a sordid tale or something. He’s been like that since I was a child right up to now. He tells people very creepy and odd stories in otherwise pleasant atmospheres.

    I’ve kept him at arms length with my toddler but he’s growing on her. The other day I saw him tickle her the exact same way…now I’m so sad. I want her to be able to say no to people, I don’t want her to feel her body is other people’s to do as they please with, as I did during my teenage years. Is it something more with him? Why does he feel the need to invade so much? He has a weird urge to pick kids up and turn them upside down until they become so used to it they dont mind anymore. Recently I saw him hide things in his pockets so his nephews would innocently fish them out, it brought back memories for me ….it all seems a bit odd.

  21. Bobby5000

    The most important thing is the child’s ability to tell the parent. Many victims are afraid mommy or daddy will be mad, and abusers look for children from families with some disfunctionality. If mommy or daddy screams a lot, maybe the child will not want to get him or her upset.

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