This week I was asked by my 7 year old “what is child sex abuse”. Always I get these questions in the car, normally at a tricky junction. She was listening to the news item on the radio of the unfolding horror that is rocking the football world. How young boys were being sexually abused by their coaches.
I come to this conversation more prepared than most having chosen to undergo safeguarding training with my job. That was a harrowing day. Never again will I take a sneaky picture at an assembly of my child. I’m also fully versed in the NSPCC underwear rule. I was ready for this day.
And yet when it came I so wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to burst the beautiful bubble of innocence that my daughter lives in, where grown-ups have the best interests of others at heart and would never hurt a child. She’s already worked out that fairies aren’t real. She’s on the verge of figuring out that Father Christmas is a myth and now this! I’m not ready for her to grow up!!
But indeed it’s not about me and time is marching on regardless of how much I crave for my babies to stay babies. My urge to protect my kids from the horrors of the world is honourable, but the reality is that I leave them vulnerable if I fail to give them all the information they need to judge what is right and what is wrong if they should ever find themselves confronted by an adult intent on abuse. The only way to truly protect kids from abuse is to tell them the truth.
So I did. Badly. But I did it. I stuttered my way through the underwear rule. Her reaction told me that she hasn’t suffered any abuse yet (“URRRRRGGGGHHHHHH that’s disgusting” were her exact words). I cringed at the thought that she possibly could have done. It hadn’t even occurred to me until that point that it was a possibility but of course it is. Children are abused by people they know and trust and I’m not with her 24/7.
I’ve decided to refresh myself on the underwear rule and then talk to her about it again. Little and often is the key. Since I last looked at the underwear rule it’s been developed quite substantially and I would highly recommend that every parent goes to the NSPCC website to get the full version. There are videos for kids to watch and parent support materials. This isn’t aimed at kids who are being abused – this is aimed at talking to your kids to make sure they know that if somebody tries it THEY WILL TELL YOU.
If you’re in a rush, the underwear rule is thus. Let’s talk PANTS!
P – Privates are Private
A – Always remember your body belongs to you
N – No means No
T – Talk about secrets that upset you
S – Speak up, someone can help
And when you have the time click here and have a look at the NSPCC website. You can read it in a minute and it’s well worth knowing. Make the time – no excuses. In this case ignorance is not bliss – it’s downright dangerous.
If you know of or suspect that a child is in danger of being abused don’t just sit on it. Tell somebody. If you’re wrong then an innocent parent will happily answer a few awkward questions but if you’re right you could be doing that kid a real favour. Imagine if it were your child and you’d missed the signs but somebody else had picked them up….what would you want them to do?
If you live in the Borough of Kingston then click here to find out how to act if you are concerned about a child.
Football are dealing with it. Now that it’s clear that clubs weren’t dealing with one off incidents but a ‘crisis’ the FA are putting their weight behind an open an honest investigation. I hope they continue in this way and get to the bottom of it so that the little kickers of the future are safer than the hands of Joe Hart (he’s the England goalie but you might know him as the blond fella from the Head and Shoulders adverts).
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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. Infact 85% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.