Empowering Kids to Repel Sexual Abuse

The following article was in a magazine put out by a church, written by Helene Hubbard who is a professor of pediatrics in Florida. I was impressed at their interest in protecting children and doing such a wonderful job at publishing such an article. Now that I have a child I truly understand the desire to protect...and inform. I hope that this gives you understanding and support...either as a parent, a grandparent...or, as a friend of a child. Also, following this article is some information I gathered from a letter to Dear Abby. Please take the information down and keep it in mind if ever you come across the situation it describes....


I'd been teaching elementary school for a long time when I met two little boys, practically towheaded twins. Their mother was a dear Christian woman, sweet and loving, determined to do the best by her children. Their dad was a pillar of the church - ready to lend a hand or to take any office to help out.

That's why I was so unprepared when other children began to let little things slip out about these boys. It couldn't be true. No Christian family would allow hardcore pornography in their home; no Christian mom would let her sons practice oral sex on each other. Surely if someone told the parents, they'd set things straight. It didn't occur to me that they'd be in such strong denial that they'd refuse to believe the evidence and do nothing at all.

My professional integrity demanded that I protect my children in my care - the schoolchildren from the boys' sexual advances, the boys themselves from this soul pollution. But I didn't know how. Nothing I thought of seemed the right thing to do.



Another family and ours were best friends. Our children were as close as siblings. It's great to share everything with someone - the same books and music, each other's hobbies. As our children budded into teenagers, it seemed natural for them to spend an occasional night with our friends. But as time passed we realized that one child was invited more than the others. I wondered if the left-out children had done something to offend them. I don't think I ever asked.

When a teacher-friend called us to ask what we knew about the situation with Friend X, we didn't know what he was talking about. We quickly assured him that our friend was a fine, upstanding man who held our highest regard. We were aghast to learn that he had been French-kissing and fondling our 12-year-old daughter. Devastated at the news, we were thankful that her sibling had found out and had told a trusted teacher (who was reluctant to tell us, so asked a mutual friend to inquire discreetly).

We immediately asked our children about the whole situation. Tragically, the allegations were true. Although we were too hurt and angry to face Friend X, we were assured that nothing of that sort would be permitted to happen again. We didn't go to the authorities. Shortly thereafter Friend X left the community.

If we'd known then what we know now, we would have gotten our whole family into counseling and possibly averted what happened next. But back then people didn't talk much about sexual abuse, not much was known about helping families cope with the aftermath.

Now we know that the child and the family can find healing, and that therapy may be needed for a long time after the event. Now we know ways of helping young people avoid harm by teaching them refusal skills. We tell children about "good touch-bad touch" and we urge them to tell a trusted adult if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.

But because of our innocence and ignorance, we managed to get the one child out of the frying pan, but the sibling who had "informed" fell into the fire. Incredible as it seems, Sibling B was seduced by Teacher-Friend Y (the very one who'd told on X). This time we didn't find out, and the relationship continued for two years until that child went away to boarding school. Even when it became apparent that Sibling B was emotionally disturbed - and throughout a whole year of intensive counseling - the truth remained carefully hidden by the betrayed youngster.

Why am I telling you this? Because you should know that sexual abuse can happen in the best of families and in the best of schools and churches. More important, you should know how you can do better than I did and maybe avoid some of the guilt and pain that I live with. And maybe your children won't bear the scars that mine carry even now.



I'd been friends with a boy, not a boyfriend, for several months. We belonged to the same school clubs; we worked on art projects together. We both were away at college; not living at home. When Sam asked me to sort of go out with him I thought it would be great, because he was so much fun to be around.

We had a terrific time, and when it was time to go back to the dorm he started kissing me. I rather enjoyed it, thinking that he truly liked me and maybe wanted us to start dating. Then suddenly he grabbed me and told me I had to have sex with him. I was terrified. I didn't even "like" him like that. I was a virgin, and I wanted to wait till I was married.

But he pushed me down and made me do it anyway. Afterward I was bleeding and hurting and shaking and crying, and he yelled at me, then took me back to the dorm as if nothing had happened. I was too afraid and ashamed to let anyone know.

But as the days passed I grew worried I might get pregnant, so I went to one of my teachers. At first he didn't believe me. Then he said that it must have been my fault. I couldn't think what I'd done to make Sam rape me, but I figured he must be right. I never told anyone else.

Later one of my other teachers started being extra nice to me. I really liked it, because I felt pretty terrible about myself, and he made me feel better. Only then he wanted sex too. I didn't know how to resist him. He didn't force me physically, just kept on insisting, and finally I couldn't refuse him. I just didn't have any more willpower. And after that he wouldn't leave me alone. He just kept after me and after me, and we kept having sex until I left that school. I never told anyone. He was a popular teacher, and no one would have believed me.



Way too often a mother or child tells me a story like the ones I have shared (with their permission and identities protected). Don't let it be your story too. Take positive steps to protect your children in your care. If something has already happened, remember that it is never too late to get help.


  • Teach them, from infancy, accurate names for body parts. Diapering, potty time, and bathing are good times for this to occur naturally.

  • Teach them that the human body is beautiful and has inherent dignity. Children's books for this purpose or artistic paintings and sculpture can help convey this so that kids don't have to look at "dirty" pictures or experiment with playmates to satisfy their natural curiosity.

  • Teach them, from the time they're toddlers, to respect their own and others' privacy (but maintain constant vigilance to ensure their safety).

  • Teach them to express their feelings in words from early preschool age, and LISTEN to what they say. Don't stop just because they grown into teens.

  • Teach them that they can ALWAYS come to you if they feel uncomfortable in any situation and that you will help them. Remind them especially when they are away from home.

  • Teach them specifically (children don't generalize; they are literal-minded) that no one may touch their "bathing suit" areas unless you are present or have given permission for a specific situation such as a doctor's visit, and that they are not to look at or touch anyone else's unclothed bodies without your permission.

  • Teach them to say "NO!" forcefully and loudly if someone tries to get them to do something that you have taught them is wrong or that they believe is wrong, and to get help if the person persists.

  • Teach them to feel good about themselves, their bodies, and their future - to have self-confidence, self-respect, and self-worth.


    1. Believe your child and affirm them for telling you; stay calm and supportive.

    2. Seek professional help immediately for your child and your family. (Start with your pediatrician, child protective services, and a counselor trained in treating sexual abuse.)

    3. Reassure your child that it wasn't their fault and that they did the best they could at the time.

    4. Expect the consequences to be painful and for the pain to recur later on at different times. Don't expect it to all be over and done with and put behind everyone. It takes time to heal and is an ongoing process for everyone in the family.

    5. Let your child talk about it at their own pace. Don't push them or try to shush them.

    6. Expect your child to recant when the going gets rough. Encourage them to tell the truth for the good of all concerned, but understand that they may try to "erase" the whole experience.

    7. As strongly as possible, let your child know that it's the adults' job to protect children and that you and God love them no matter what!


    And, the following is advice from a Dear Abby writer on child pornography...

    Dear Abby:
    My letter is in response to "Terrified in the South," who discovered her husband's interest in child pornography. "Terrified" asked whether you thought her husband could be a child molester and said that she couldn't stand the thought of her husband touching her "if he...hurt a child like that."

    Abby, her husband doesn't need to physically touch a child to "hurt a child like that"; his desire for child pornography creates and fuels the demand for sexual exploitation of children.

    Please inform your readers that the very act of downloading or viewing child pornography is a criminal act and creates the environment for children to be sexually abused by SOMEONE.

    The US Customs Service investigates the trafficking of child pornography via the internet. If your readers suspect someone is involved with child pornography over the Internet, referrals can be made by calling 1-800-BE ALERT (1-800-232-5378) or via email to c3@customs.treas.gov.


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