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Setting Boundaries

Protecting Children with Preventive Procedures

Upset abused frightened little boy stop hand gesture

An article based on the Safety Member Certification training module "Protecting Children from Abuse" and "How to Prevent: Family and Community Safety" on the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.[1][2]

From the Bible

The Bible has advice for young people to use discretion in relationships (what we call “setting boundaries”) to guard against inappropriate behavior:

Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee ... To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words ... For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead (Proverbs 2:11,16,18).

... but intreat ... the younger [women] as sisters, with all purity (1 Timothy 5:1b,2b).

Flee also youthful lusts ... (2 Timothy 2:22a).


We teach children to be careful crossing the street, to not play with fire, and to keep from other dangerous things. This is for their own safety. Do we also teach them to set personal boundaries to protect themselves from sexual abuse? We want them to be able to resist immoral advances by those they otherwise trust: family members, teachers and coaches, older children, family friends, etc. What we need to know is how to teach them.

In the News

Children and youth who are not victims of sexual abuse because they maintain their boundaries rarely make the news. Some offenders are caught because an aware youth or child told someone else about the grooming or advances. There are, however, many news stories of those who do fall victim to sexual offenders because they either did not have boundaries or they let their guard down.

* This is about an assault by a stranger:

San Jose, California, May 5, 2015 - A girl, age 13, had just got off the school bus and came to the door of her house. Just then she saw a man coming onto the porch. The thirtyish man claimed to be lost, then began inappropriate questioning. The girl opened the door, dashed inside, and tried to close the door, but the man forced his way in. She fought him off until he fled. The girl texted her father while hiding. Police said the man's description matched that of the person who tried to assault a woman a month earlier.[3]

* Most cases of sexual abuse are not direct assaults, but a softening up of the targeted persons so they will willingly participate:

San Diego, California, 2021 - The San Diego law firm Estey & Bomberger, which represents survivors of sexual assault, posted an article about how sexual predators groom children and youth. In the process, predators work on both the intended victim and the parents, taking advantage of the naïveté of both as well as their reluctance to admit fault. The predator first looks for ways to get close to the prey, then feigns concern for the child's wellbeing.

This article was written to advise parents and guardians on how to protect their children and to urge them to establish personal boundaries.[4]

* Not all grooming and solicitation is in person. A lot of it is now online:

Cambridge, England, United Kingdom, April 22, 2021 - The Internet Watch Foundation released a report revealing that the online sexual grooming of children has increased. This is especially true for girls, who are targets not only for arranging sexual encounters, but also for self-produced online pornography. About 80% of the victims were girls from 11 to 13 years old. Images of girls had also gone up from 2018 to 2020.[5]

Detroit, Michigan, December 5, 2018 - In the Detroit, Michigan United States District Court, the nine members of a global online child sex images ring were convicted of several federal sexual exploitation charges. The trial was in Detroit because a Michigan girl who had been targeted worked with the FBI on the case.

The men, ranging in age from 34 to 47, posed as teen boys online to entice the girls. This operation ran for five years. They hunted online social media, began with "innocent" comments, manipulated girls into exposure and acts, and used shame, blackmail, and/or threats to keep them acting. Ages of the victims were from 10 to 17. They stopped when they realized that authorities were investigating people on the same web service they used, but by then they were already being investigated.

The leader of the group was sentenced to 40 years, but only served a month of it before being beaten to death by other inmates in a federal prison.[6][7][8]

* A father found out from his daughter that someone was soliciting her online:

Oklahoma, June 2017 - A father in Oklahoma (name and location withheld) learned from his daughter that someone on social media was getting fresh with her (grooming).

Dad reported it to the local police, but they said they couldn't do anything until the offender came, so he set up a sting. Using his daughter's phone, he made contact with the sexual solicitor, who proposed meeting her somewhere. Dad agreed and gave him the address and directions to the large yard behind the house where he set up a tent.

There the father and two other men waited while a grown woman was in the tent as a decoy. The hopeful offender came at the appointed time, 12:30 AM, and went to the tent. When he got there, the three men tackled him and bound him with zip ties. Then the police came and took him into custody.[9]

Videocast and Show Notes

Kris discusses the subject of this article in a videocast on the Sheepdog Church Security Academy channel on YouTube (the audio is in a Church Security Roll Call podcast on SoundCloud). Be sure to share the videocast or podcast with others.

Below the video screen is a link to the Show Notes, essentially an article summary. This is a downloadable PDF which can be printed or attached to emails and messages to share with others for teaching, discussion, and persuasion. The link to the Show Notes for this article will be active for one week - until the next article is posted.

Drawing the Line

When we express a desire that something does not progress past a certain point, then we are "drawing the line." But saying what we do not want is often not enough. Setting personal boundaries is effective only when we act on our desire for "no farther." When we draw the line, we need to first know when someone is about to cross the line. Then we need to know how to hold the line, not let them cross.

As seen in the news stories above, many children don't know how to hold the line on sexual abuse. The abusers may be strangers, whether physically present or online, or be people they know, such as family, neighbors, teachers, coaches, even pastors. However, some children and youth do ask for help and predators are stopped.

Getting Past the Fence

Most sexual predators of children and youth use grooming to get to the point where they can abuse their prey while minimizing the chance of interference and discovery. In this process, they gain the trust of the intended victims, condition them to accept and engage in sexual talk, and finally to engage in sexual acts. A successful sexual offender can keep using the same person for years.

Damage Done

When caught, most sexual offenders of minors are charged with child endangerment. Why endangerment?

Building the Fence

In many areas of life we are told to build fences, to set boundaries to keep others from taking unfair advantage of us. This may be in the workplace, or in social organizations, or even in families. Many times in families this is someone taking financial advantage of others or over-using them. We should consider sexually abusing a minor as taking unfair advantage of their innocence, inexperience, size, lack of authority, undeveloped reasoning powers, etc.

On the other hand, children can learn to strongly say "No" to some things. We should know what to teach them to say "No" to. They also need to trust us enough to come to us with anything that concerns them. For example, if someone says, "Don't tell anyone," or "Don't tell your parents," that means there could be a bad reason, so they should tell us. If they say, "I HAVE to tell Mom [or Dad], and the person says, "No! No! Don't tell them," that's a sign this is really bad, so tell.

Advice on the Dru Sjodin Website

The "How to Prevent" subsection of Safety and Education on the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website[1] has four divisions:

"Family and Community Safety" is about building defenses against sexual abuse. The first chapter in this is "Family Safety Planning." Here we are advised to create "a family safety plan," bringing everybody onto the same page. Here the family can discuss boundaries and healthy interactions. The children learn what is not acceptable, what they say "No" to.


Since sexual predators consider parents to be naïve, we begin by educating the adults. Then if Johnny says, "Mr. D. did [an inappropriate action]," we thank Johnny for telling us, then we know what was wrong and decide how to deal with Mr. D.

Teach children the proper names for body parts and help them to understand their bodies as they grow.

Building Trust

Talking with children and teens in a calm and respectful manner builds trust. Listen when they talk to you and take them seriously. If they are mistaken about something, calmly correct, not scolding them or putting them down. When they trust you, they are more likely to tell you when they hear or see something suspicious.


Boundaries begin within the family. If the family has guidelines for respect, safety, heathy interactions, and personal privacy, and these are followed, then the children learn these boundaries through both example and practice. This makes it easier for them to hold the line when someone acts inappropriately. By the way, talk about what they can do in those situations. Oh yes, the boundaries grow as the child does.

Safe Adults

Who are the safe adults in your family, in your church, in the school? These are the ones your children or teens should talk to if they have questions or encounter inappropriate behavior. Find out who's safe or not safe. Watch and listen. Is someone too friendly or too interested in a child? If an uncle gives your daughter lingerie, does that raise questions?

More Help

At the end of "Family Safety Planning" is a list of links to five resources:

Online Safety

Online safety for our children is now a vital concern, as seen in three of the news stories above. So how do we keep our children safe online? The easy way would be to not let them online at all, but for most that is impractical. Besides, if they do not learn how to be safe online now, they'll be falling for scammers and predators when they've left home. They need to be taught how to be safe from online sexual predators. They also need to learn how to be discrete about what personal information they share online. They should be skeptical of online and email offers which are too good to be true, or messages intended to create panic and drive them to unwise actions.

This teaching involves both guidance and guardiance. Since they are minors, you have not only the right, but the responsibility to be aware of what they are doing online. That used to be easier when they had to use the family computer, but now almost every teen and many preteens have their own smart phones.

Assure the children and youth that phone accountability does not mean we do not trust them, but that (1) we are protecting them from bad actors, and (2) we are helping them know what to be aware of and how to respond.

Obviously, we need to be able to discern inappropriate communication. Do we ourselves practice this? Can we spot scam email and text messages? If so we can explain examples of these to our youngsters, and tell them that bad people are not after only our money. Some want us for wrong purposes. How you explain this depends on the child's or teen's stage of development. Basically, the message is (1), "That person is likely not who he or she claims to be," and (2), "No matter what they say, they do NOT love you, may not even like you."

Does this work? For many families it does. One example is the last news story above. The father found out that a sexual predator was after his daughter and he foiled the attempt.

Training Notes

While we are training our children and teens, we ourselves need to be trained. Sheepdog Church Security urges each Church Safety Team to get all its members trained and certified through the Safety Member Certification program.[1] Each person completing all training modules and passing its certification test will be certified for two years as a qualified Safety Member.

Safety Member Certification is available in three formats plus auditing:

Team Certification is ideal for training the entire team when starting the safety ministry. The whole team can be trained at once. There is the opportunity for interaction and discussion. It can also be used for re-certification every two years.

Individual Certification lets a new member get trained without waiting for the next training classes months or more than a year down the line. If a member has to miss a class, he/she can take it online instead.

Online Events are open to both teams and individuals. Kris teaches each class on a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 PM Central Time. Members can attend from their own homes.

The 2022-2023 Online Events school year began on September 11 with "Safety Team Fundamentals" and three sessions have already taken place. The next one, on October 2, is "Protecting Children from Abuse," the module that goes with this article.

Online Events Schedule 2022-2023

Completed classes highlighted in blue.





Training Module


Sep 11

Nov 13

Jan 29

Mar 26

Safety Team Fundamentals


Sep 18

Nov 20

Feb 5

Apr 2

Active Shooter Response


Sep 25

Dec 4

Feb 12

Apr 16

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Oct 2

Dec 11

Feb 19

Apr 23

Protecting Children from Abuse


Oct 9

Dec 18

Feb 26

Apr 30

Basic Use of Force Laws


Oct 16

Jan 8

Mar 5

May 7

Arson and Fire Safety


Oct 23

Jan 13

Mar 12

May 21

Storms and Disasters


Nov 6

Jan 22

Mar 19

Jun 4

Mass Trauma Emergencies

Auditing is taking a class not for credit. You might want certain persons in the church who are not safety team members to audit specific classes. For example, have teachers and youth leaders take "Protecting Children from Abuse."


We all need to set personal boundaries to protect ourselves from fraud and abuse. Therefore, we should help and guide our children in setting their own personal boundaries, especially to protect them from sexual abuse.

There Is More

This is the last article for September. The other three are "2019 West Freeway Church of Christ Shooting" (Lesson Learned), "Outer Guard" (Stopping a Killer Outside), and "On Hold" (Citizen's Arrest). The next article (the first in October) is "1999 Temple Grounds Church Shooting" (Lesson Learned).


  1. Kris Moloney, "Protecting Children from Abuse," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Staff Writers, "Safety and Education: How to Prevent: Family and Community Safety," Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice [].
  3. Morgan Giordano, "Girl, 13, fights off sexual predator in her own home," AOL News, May 8, 2015 [].
  4. Etsey & Bomberger staff, "The Grooming Process - How Sexual Predators Con You and Your Child," Etsey & Bomberger, © 2021 [].
  5. Hannah Sparks, "Young girls more vulnerable to online predators than ever before," New York Post, April 22, 2021 [].
  6. Tresa Baldas, "This is how 9 sexual predators got hundreds of girls to trust them," Detroit Free Press, December 12, 2018 [].
  7. Dan Hall, "The leader of a global child abuse images ring has been beaten to death in jail. Christian Maire was serving a 40-year sentence for his role in the sick online gang,", January 7, 2019 [].
  8. Anthony Borrelli, "How an internet sex scheme, led by a Broome County man, victimized over 100 girls," PressConnects, December 4, 2018, updated December 7, 2018 [].
  9. Anon, "Oklahoma Dad Carries Out Sting To Catch Alleged Sexual Predator," CBS News/Sacramento, June 30, 2017 [].