Jayneen Sanders looks at sexual assault to children of single parents and ways to think about prevention.
The statistics on the sexual abuse of children are staggering. Some estimates place the incidence as high as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday (Aust. Institute of Criminology, 1993). And these are only the reported cases.
Children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner are at the highest risk of sexual abuse: they are 20 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents (Sedlack et al, 2010).
As the writer of the children’s book on safe and unsafe touch ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept’ www.somesecrets.info and as an advocate for Body Safety education both in the home and in schools, I hear many worrying and frankly very tragic stories from parents whose children have been sexually abused and adult survivors who were sexually abused as young children. Something that regularly comes up in conversation is single parents’ concern over who their children are coming into contact with when they are not there. Their concerns are indeed valid.
Statistics also tell us 95% of sexually abused children will know their perpetrator (Child Protection Council, 1993). They will be an immediate family member, a close family friend or some-one the child has regular contact with. Up to 95% of child sexual abusers are male (Bagley, 1995). And worryingly:
The most vulnerable age for children to be exposed to sexual assault is between 3 and 8 years with the majority of onset happening between these ages. (Browne & Lynch, 1994)
I am not a single parent but many of my friends are. Fathers in particular are concerned when their ex-partner re-partners or regularly dates different men. Single mothers are also concerned about who their children come in contact with when various male and female friends visit or go on holidays with their ex-partner and the children.
A close friend of mine is a single mother of four young daughters. She has actively decided not to date until the girls are older. Even though her daughters are well versed in their rights, especially in relation to their body and Body Safety education is reinforced regularly, she deems the risk of exposing her young daughters to an opportunistic predator are too great.
I am aware the majority of men and women who come into the lives of children of single parents are not predators, but let’s be honest, there is a real risk that a percentage could be. Therefore, I advise all parents whether you are single or not, to ensure your child is educated in Body Safety. Begin as soon as they are able to talk. Teaching Body Safety is quite simple and is always age appropriate. This link takes you to a my blog on this topic: http://somesecrets.info/blog/2014/5/9/protect-your-child-from-sexual-abuse
Knowledge is power and a child who understands and knows their rights in relation to their body from a very young age is less likely to be successfully targeted by a sexual predator.
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