Kids don’t have very many years under their belts. They haven’t lived on this planet long enough to spot a manipulator or know how to navigate a tricky situation. Those who live in homes where they can trust the adults around them, tend to think all adults can be trusted and have their best interests at heart. They trust that the person on the other end of their internet chat conversation is who they portray themselves to be.
We tell kids: “Mind your manners. Speak respectfully to Mr. Brown. Do what you’re told. Don’t ask questions.”
And so life can be very confusing for a child. That’s why they need us. Children are so vulnerable and depend on us to keep them safe. That’s what adults are supposed to do.
I was one of those naive kids – one of the ones who lived in such a safe home that it never occurred to me that someone might want to harm me sexually. I trusted people. And that was good – then – but maybe that’s why, years later, when one of my children was being molested by a family member, it never occurred to me such a thing could be happening and that that could be the root of the problems my precious child was experiencing.
These days, we have to put any naivitee aside and sharpen our antennae to know what’s happening with the children around us. Rather than counting on kids to recognize possible danger, we have to be aware of the fact that they’re “just kids” and not all of them have the life experiences to make them adequately guarded in their activities and conversations. When they don’t know what might happen as a result of telling about abuse, their tendency is to remain silent in fear of consequences. We need to be able to recognize the withdrawn silence of a child and encourage freedom of conversation. Part of our job description as adults is to keep a watchful eye over the young ones around us.
Last week, an international operation investigating child pornography and sexual abuse culminated in the arrest of 245 suspects. “Operation Sunflower” identified 123 victims of child exploitation. Forty-four of the victims were living with their alleged abusers and were removed from their homes.
When I think of 44 kids being victimized in their own homes, it makes my blood run cold. How many people were there in the circles surrounding those children who missed the signs of what was happening? Teachers, doctors, siblings, parents, neighbours, aunts, uncles, community workers.... When I think of what those little ones endured in their own homes, I weep. They needed safe homes where they could just be naive little kids.
Several of the children rescued through Operation Sunflower were very young. Five were under the age of three. One of the reasons this trend is increasing is that predators think they’re less likely to be able to “tell.” Nine of the children were between the ages of four and six.
The work of Plan to Protect is critical. By helping to train the adults who surround a child to make sure the world is a safe place for little ones, we are changing lives – individuals, families and communities.
Nothing is more basic that the right of a kid to “be a kid.”
© Diane Roblin-Lee, Jan. 15/13