Educating Children against Attempted Abuse
Based on the "Safety and Education" section of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offenders Public Website and the Safety Member Certification training module "Protecting Children from Abuse v4."
From the Bible
The Book of Proverbs presents the subject of teaching discretion to children through the example of instructing a son to avoid those who would take advantage of his youth and inexperience.
My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not (Proverbs 1:8-10).
Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things (Prov. 2:11-12).
Chapter 5 warns against seduction –
But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell (Prov. 5:4-5).
Forewarned is forearmed. When we know of a threat, we can treat it as a threat. Considering the threat of sexual molestation, we need to forewarn our children, not only making them aware of the threat, but also knowing how to take precautions, recognize it, and avoid or escape it.
In the News
Escambia County, Florida, May 18, 2021 – About 7:00 in the morning, an 11-year-old girl was at a street corner waiting for the school bus. While she was sitting on the grass playing with a Blue Slime toy, a white SUV on the side street stopped at the corner. A man got out, ran over to the girl with a knife in his hand. He grabbed the girl and tried to drag her to the vehicle. She fought him off. He ran back to his car and sped away. She picked up her books and headed home. There she told her parents about the man. They then called the police.
Video footage from a home security camera help police identify the vehicle. They arrested the owner, a sex offender with a criminal history. He had spray-painted the SUV in an attempt to change the evidence, but he had some of the blue slime on him.
Days earlier, someone in a white car, presumably this individual, had stopped at the bus stop and had a few words with the girl, which she had also reported to her parents.
Whittier, California, February 5 and 22, 2013, March 6, 2013 – On February 5, a man (est. age 25-35) made two attempts to kidnap girls in Whittier. At 11:45 am near one park, he offered a ride to a 17-year-old, and she refused. At 4:40 pm, he argued with two high school girls, telling them to get into his car. They ran off.
On the 22nd, the same man (same descriptions, including the car), this time wearing a mask, grabbed a girl (age 7), then another (age 11), forcing them into his car. The 11-year-old opened the door when she had a chance, and both girls escaped.
Then on March 6, another man, age 41, attempted to abduct a woman (age 18), and was later arrested. She fled and called 911 when he tried to grab her.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, sometime before September 16, 2019 – According to the Filipino Times, a 10-year-old girl was pestered by a man trying to "connect" with her. In the lobby of the building where she lived, he asked for her apartment number, but she refused to tell him. He later encountered her in a food store and tried to touch her. Back in the apartment building, he followed her to the elevator. She tried to close the door, but he barged in and touched her. She kicked him and screamed, and he fled.
- Several news sources tell of men attempting to molest girls 9-14 years of age in elevators in Dubai. Elevators are frequent locations of attempted molestation around the world, including in the United States and Canada – even stories of women trying to molest boys.
Videocast and Show Notes
Each weekly article, including this one – "Building Resistance" (Educating Children against Attempted Abuse) – is discussed by Kris in a videocast and podcast. You can subscribe to the videocast on the YouTube channel Sheepdog Church Security Academy.
Below the video window is a link to the Show Notes (an article summary). These are available until the next videocast is posted a week later.
By the way, there is a place to search for sexual offenders in your area and to check on individual persons. It is the Search and Verification page on the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offenders Public Website.
Survival Skills for Children and Youth
In the news stories above, young people ages 10 to 18 resisted sexual abusers. One who was kidnapped took advantage of a chance to escape, freeing another victim (age 7) in the process. When I was a child, we were warned about strangers offering gifts, rides, etc.
Evidently, the young people in the news stories knew enough to resist strangers. Unfortunately, most cases of sexual molestation of minors are perpetrated by persons the victims know and trust. Most of these are authority and mentoring figures; some are peers.
To a large extent we can bar sexual predators from being pastors, teachers, and activity leaders in the church, but a few may get through the net. However, we in church security cannot screen the family members, neighbors, family friends, classmates, school teachers, coaches, and scout leaders of vulnerable children and youth. But we can learn how to guide these young people, enabling them to be wary of attempts to groom them, entice them, trap them, make advances, and initiate inappropriate contact. This is teaching them survival skills (in some cases, we use "survival" literally).
Teaching Sexual Safety
Teaching children sexual safety is primarily the right and duty of parents and/or legal guardians, especially in the younger years (pre-teen). However, many parents are apprehensive about this task. They may feel awkward, embarrassed, or inadequate. This is more difficult for single parents. How does a single father teach this to a daughter, or a single mother to her son? Delicate issue? Right!
The church can help parents in this by encouraging them, convincing those who are skeptical, and helping them (especially new parents) learn how to teach this to their children and youth. The Church Safety Ministry would not likely be teaching classes on this topic, but they could be catalysts. The Church Safety Committee could encourage the church to train parents and encourage them to take advantage of available resources.
Available Sexual Safety Teaching Resources
There are resources to help parents and guardians teach their sons and daughters about sexual safety. One of these is included in the "Safety and Education" section of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). This section is divided into five chapters:
- How to Prevent
- How to Identify
- How to Respond
- Questions & Answers
- After Your Search
The first two divisions of "How to Prevent" are "Educate Yourself" and "Learn about Healthy Development." "Educate Yourself" teaches the parents about "healthy sexual development" and "child sexual abuse." As parents learn these facts, they become more comfortable with the terms they will use when talking with their children. Following this brief presentation is a list of six links to more detailed information.
"Learn about Healthy Development" covers children's physical, mental, social, and emotional development. This should help parents – especially prospective and new ones – recognize what is age and developmentally appropriate for their children. The "For More Information" links include pages for specific age-ranges:
- Ages Zero to Three
- Ages Four to Five
- Ages Six to Eight
- Ages Nine to 12
- Ages 13 to 17
- Ages 18 and over
The third division of "How to Prevent" is "Talk to Your Child or Teen." Realistically, this teaching begins as soon as possible. The content and methods depend on the child's age and developmental stage. The opening statement of this division is, "Conversations with your child or teen should be open, casual and ongoing. As your child's understanding of the world grows, conversations can also grow."
The first subsection of this is "How to Talk to Your Child." The point here is to not wait until puberty begins to start talking about the birds and the bees. Why is this important? When we look at cases of sexual abuse, it is alarming how young many of the victims are. For instance, in Whittier, the girls a suspect kidnapped were ages 7 and 11. Fortunately, they escaped.
The outline for "How to Talk to Your Child" is:
- Names for body parts
- Model healthy boundaries
- Be sure talks are ongoing
- Be involved in your child's life
- Talk about media and technology
Two of the 5 links to more information are for "Tip sheet for talking to children and teens" from Stop It Now! and for "KidSmartz resources" for parents of children K–5, including parent tips and activities, from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
"How to Talk to Your Teen" is the next subsection. This is a critical stage when the child is going through puberty (which may start at 12 or 11) and moving into adulthood. At this time, their bodies are changing in several ways. So are their emotions, affected by new hormones. Peer acceptance and inclusion is more important to them now, and they need our understanding and support.
Boundaries Are for Protection
Boundaries are challenged by rising sexual awareness and desires. This is when they are more attractive to predators and are more easily tempted by those wanting to take advantage of them. Parents should help them in setting and keeping boundaries.
Sheep and lambs are frightened by strangers, especially wolves and other predators, and will run. Children and teens should learn to recognize the signs of sexual predation, especially the actions which constitute grooming the prey or moves leading to molestation. Then when someone tries to molest them or makes them feel threatened, they should feel free to share this with the trusted parent, even if the offender is a family member or a family friend. Attempted inappropriate touching is an alarming sign which should definitely be reported. The child or teen should really know and feel that "It's OK to tell Mom."
Especially for Christian Parents
While the Safety and Education section of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offenders Public Website is for all parents of children and teens, there are resources especially for Christian parents. The church can use and/or promote these resources for parents. These approach the subject from a Christian point of view.
One of these is Mama Bear Apologetics. They have books and study guides which some churches use in classes to help these parents present a biblical worldview to their children. Especially relevant to our topic is their book, Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality. A workbook for this will be available September 6.
We need help equipping our children to be sexually safe. The "How to Prevent" chapter the Safety and Education section of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offenders Public Website teaches us how to train our children to avoid and resist sexual predators.
The Safety Member Certification curriculum includes the training module "Protecting Children from Abuse v4." Each Church Safety Team is encouraged to have all its members trained and certified. This training is available in three formats: church hosted classes (Team Certification), self-paced online training (Individual Certification), and live Zoom classes (Online Events).
There is also the article "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Church" in the Church Security Guide. This can be read at any time, especially to preview the topic before training and to refresh it later.
There Is More
This is the last article in June. The others are "2017 Burnette Chapel Shooting" (Lesson Learned), "Shut Out, Shut In" (Lockouts and Lockdowns), and "Relieving Tension" (Calming Tempers through Verbal De-Escalation).
- Staff Writers, "Safety and Education," Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice [https://www.nsopw.gov/SafetyAndEducation].
- Kris Moloney, "Protecting Children from Abuse v4," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/].
- Jesse O'Neill. "Florida sex offender tries to abduct 11-year-old girl at bus stop," New York Post, 18, 2021 [https://nypost.com/2021/05/18/florida-sex-offender-tries-to-abduct-11-year-old-girl-at-bus-stop/].
- Michael Walsh, "11-year-old girl escapes suspected kidnapper's car in California, says she freed another girl, 7," New York Daily News, February 22, 2013 [https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/whittier-calif-girl-11-escapes-suspected-kidnapper-article-1.1271157].
- Samantha Tata, "Man Arrested After Attempted Kidnapping in Whittier," NBC Los Angeles, March 6, 2013 [https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/man-arrested-after-attempted-kidnapping-in-whittier/2057088/].
- Staff Report, "Brave child resists molester in lift," Filipino Times, September 16, 2019 [https://filipinotimes.net/news/2019/09/16/brave-child-resists-molester-lift/].
- Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy channel, YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/c/SheepdogChurchSecurityAcademy].
- Kris Moloney, "Show Notes," Sheepdog Church Security Academy [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/weekly-notes].
- Hillary Morgan Ferrer with Amy Davison, Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality: Empowering Your Kids to Understand and Live Out God's Design, ISBN: 978-0-7369-381-5, Harvest House Publishers, October 5, 2021.
- Kris Moloney, "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Church," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [https://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/child-and-vulnerable-adults/].