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Parenting Press: Commonly-Held Beliefs That Put Our Children at Risk

Tip—Knowing the facts about child sexual abuse will help you better protect your child.

Link to book description

In the 1980s, the prevalence of child sexual abuse in our society became widely noted. How to keep children safe entered the general conversation in a big way. Responding to this need, Parenting Press published a series of small but important books we call the Children’s Safety Series. In the intervening years we’ve seen sexual abuse scandals hit the news with distressing regularity. Clearly, the need to teach and protect children remains just as relevant today as it ever was.

Out of Harm’s Way: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Young Children from Sexual Abuse, was written by psychology professor Sandy Wurtele, who is also an advisor to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Wurtele’s specialty is the research in and prevention of child sexual abuse.

In her work, she often hears parents express beliefs about this issue that simply are not true. Because child abuse is such an upsetting and frightening possibility, parents often take refuge in myths that offer a false sense of safety. Although understandable, this is a form of denial. In fact, parents who choose to believe some of these myths make their children more vulnerable to predators.

Tools—Wurtele lists some common myths about sexual abuse:

  • “There are no registered sex offenders living within miles of here so our neighborhood is safe.”

    Unfortunately, most predators molest many, many times before they are caught (if they ever are caught). You only know about the ones who have been arrested and convicted. You cannot assume your neighborhood is perfectly safe. Children need to be supervised and taught abuse prevention no matter where they live.

  • “Teaching my child abuse prevention skills will just scare him/her.”

    On the contrary, the vast majority of children feel empowered when they learn abuse prevention skills. It is esteem-building to know what to do in such situations.

  • “I think of all abusers as dirty old men or the criminally homeless.”

    Wurtele points out that abusers who prey on young children are rarely older adults. Instead, onset of offending peaks at two times—the first during adolescence and the second during their thirties. Both of these times offer common access to children. Adolescent abusers have access to younger siblings and often babysit. Abusers in their thirties usually get access in their own families or work with children. “Images of child molesters as criminals or homeless people are also incorrect,” says Wurtele. “People who sexually exploit young children often lead two lives—a respected public life and a hidden private life.”

Recognize that these beliefs are merely comforting falsehoods. All children need to learn abuse prevention skills.

You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in Out of Harm’s Way: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Young Children from Sexual Abuse by Sandy K. Wurtele, Ph.D.

 

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