Tuesday 26 April 2016

Talking Stranger Danger

Stay Safe Stamp Image from Shutterstock

When I was a kid at school, this was the talk that happened at least once a year.  The stranger danger talk, the warning about lone dodgy looking men waiting outside school in cars, offering you sweets if you got in.

But how realistic is this and how often are children abducted or abused because they were approached in this way? Surely, danger is just danger?  A person does not have to be a stranger to be dangerous to your child. We know that - fathers abuse, mothers abuse, neighbours abuse, grandparents abuse. It is a really sad fact of life. According to Dosomething.org 90% of child abusers are known to the child in some way and 68% are abused by a family member (Source).

Gosh, those statistics make me want to be physically sick. I'm now sat here wondering why on earth I googled on this subject but I can't just push it under the carpet and pretend it doesn't happen. The findings from the NSPCC state there are over 50,000 children identified in the UK as needing protection from abuse and that really makes me realise just how serious this problem is. Sadly, the true picture is probably many, many times worse than this as they believe for every identified child there is another eight suffering in silence.

In recent months my husband and I have been having quite a few talks with each of our three children about the dangers out there, be that online where people can be pretending to be someone they are completely not. Or in everyday face-to-face life where my girls have garnered the strange idea that everyone who calls themself a Christians is good and safe.

Who'd have thought that living at a large Christian conference centre would present a set of unique circumstances which mean we have to instruct and train our children to be vigilant, to stick to the routes we have said are OK, to keep us abreast at all times of where they are, to staying within the boundaries set, to only talking to unknown people in public areas, to never being alone with an adult that's not on our trusted adult list. It would be so easy for us all to be lulled into a false sense of security and to believe that nothing bad will ever happen but we can't make that assumption. Bad things happen to good people.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
It's not been particularly easy talking to my eight-year-old girls about the potential dangers as they find it so hard to believe that anyone might not be as they first seem and I love that innocence and it would be really great to maintain it but they have to have some realism too. We've had some tough old conversations this week about how some adults like to touch little girls in their private places, about how some adults like children of the same sex as them and how some will groom the child so they have no idea that anything sinister is happening.

My biggest learning this week is that I have to be more alert. I am the adult and they are mostly in my care. They may not be able to discern when something is wrong but I generally can, so the best I can do for my children is to keep close, know exactly where they are, let them know they can always come to me without judgement, be aware in all situations and try to educate them as best I can.

Constant communication is the key. Reminding them of the simple principles of keeping safe and monitoring what they are doing and where they are going. I just never know when danger might be round the next corner.

Some of the simple safety rules we have put in place are -

  1. When taking a journey through the grounds of our home, you can only take the designated path
  2. The areas of your body where you wear underwear or a swimsuit are private and no-one should touch those without good reason (ie: if you are poorly and need help with ointment or such)
  3. You must ask before you change any plans
  4. We have a list of approved adults but you must check before you go anywhere with them
  5. If an unknown adult asks for your help, you must say no. Adults help adults, it is not OK for them to ask a kid.
  6. We do not keep bad secrets. The only secret we keep is a surprise for a birthday/ celebration.
  7. You must not be alone in a room with an adult who is not on our trusted adult list
  8. You must never accept gifts from unknown adults
  9. It is OK to say no, if you feel uncomfortable then you walk away and tell Mum or Dad.
  10. We do not give out personal information to people we have met on the internet
  11.  If something seems to good to be true, then it probably is and you should tell Mum or Dad.
  12. If you get lost away from home you should stay where you are (if it is safe to do so) and shout for Mum/ Dad. If not, you should approach a member of staff (wearing a uniform in a public place) or a Mum with her kids and ask for help.
And if you want to do some more reading on this subject I was directed to a superb website resource earlier this week and came across some very good prevention tips and also a list of red flags and warning signs to watch out for.
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