Why We Don’t Keep Secrets In Our House {Child Abuse Prevention}

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About a month ago, our family was having dinner with some friends at their house. I walked into the kitchen just as the other mom, while winking at me, handed my son a second cookie and whispered, “shhhh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell your mom.” To my delight {and surprise}, my son exclaimed, “Oooooh, but we don’t keep secrets in our house. We do surprises.” In that moment I thought, he gets it and he’s not afraid to say it, thank goodness.Why We Don't Keep Secrets in Our House | Denver Metro Moms Blog

You see, thanks to an excellent Sexual Abuse Prevention workshop that my husband and I attended, called Parenting Safe Children, we have a “no secrets” rule in our house. We have this rule because secrecy is a key ingredient to the sexual abuse of a child. In fact, sexual predators count on the fact that the child will keep a secret. Sometimes they even test the child by asking him to keep small, innocent secrets first to see if he will keep bigger ones later. So, when we teach our children that we don’t keep secrets, even about small and seemingly harmless things like a cookie, we are also instilling in them that they don’t have to keep big and unsafe secrets, like that of someone touching them inappropriately.

Why We Don't Keep Secrets in Our House | Denver Metro Moms Blog

This other mom, the one who asked my son to keep the secret, is a friend of mine and I know that she meant no harm by it at all. Nonetheless, the interaction created a great opportunity for me to share with her about our Body Safety Rules {which we also adapted from the workshop}, one of which is that we don’t keep secrets. I shared with her that we have “surprises” instead of secrets because surprises are something that you keep quiet about temporarily; then you share the surprise and people are happy. But secrets are meant to be kept quiet forever and they’re often to protect something that would make people unhappy.

My friend asked me more about the Body Safety Rules – what they are, why we have them, where we keep them, how I talk about them with my kids – and I began to explain that we have Body Safety Rules in effort to keep our kids safe from sexual abuse, to empower our kids, and to communicate to others that our kids are off limits. I told her that we keep the rules posted front and center in our kitchen; that we went over each rule with our kids when we first made the sign and that we discuss them regularly as situations arise. For example, when I’m trying to get a moment of peace, err go to the bathroom by myself and one of them comes barging in, I remind them that because we’re the bosses of our own bodies, we’re allowed to have privacy when using the toilet. And {for the love} Mommy would like some privacy while going to the bathroom. Or when we go to the pediatrician, I remind them, “no one is allowed to touch your private parts {which we call by their correct name}, but because the doctor is checking to make sure you are healthy, he needs to check your whole body, including your private parts and because Mommy is here, it is ok.” We talk about the Body Safety Rules in the context of different every day situations and we also sometimes play “what if” scenarios, like “what would you do if you were playing at someone’s house and they asked you to take your clothes off?” My kids would likely respond, “I would tell them that we play with our clothes on.”

When a child knows his body safety rules and feels empowered to say no to inappropriate touch and to keeping secrets, it communicates to a potential predator that the child is off limits. And when friends or child care providers see the Body Safety Rules hanging in our kitchen, it’s obvious to them that sexual abuse prevention is on our radar. A conversation is usually quick to follow, sometimes it’s comfortable and other times it’s just plain awkward. But I simply have to ask myself, am I willing to have a moment of awkwardness with someone in order to have my child’s back and keep him safe? The answer is always, without a doubt, Yes.

For more information on keeping your children safe, check out “Is Your Child Off Limits”

Body Safety Rules Source: Parenting Safe Children workshop and Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse by Sandy K. Wurtele, Ph.D. and Feather Berkower, MSW.

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