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I am overwhelmed and pained by the stories around us of coaches/teachers grooming players/students for sexual abuse. It is every parent’s nightmare… and terribly devastating when it happens under the leadership of someone you trusted as a coach and school professional.
90% of the time, children and teens are sexually abused by someone they know. They are most at risk to be abused by someone they have regular contact with like relatives, coaches, teachers, babysitters, etc. While there is no such thing as a fool-proof warning sign, there are things parents can do and watch out for…Parents must talk with kids/teens about coaches, teachers, pastors or other adults who show signs of sexual interest in children.
Take the time, learn to recognize signs and speak up before another child is harmed.
Teach BOUNDARIES to your KIDS:
People who sexually abuse children often manipulatively cross personal space or even just ignore it all together. Sometimes the adult will begin to hug, touch, kiss, tickle, wrestle with, hold or cuddle with a child or teenager. This is where it begins…but doesn’t end…and it is never okay.
Talk to your kids about why it’s important to tell them or a safe adult if anyone’s behavior makes them uncomfortable. For young kids you can say something like, “Some people need help if they can’t remember the ‘rules’ for how to behave around kids.” Since most of the time children and teens know, and often care about or like the person who abuses them, it is helpful to use neutral language like “the rules” rather than using terms like “predators”, “abusers”, etc.
“A teenager can stop sexual harassment before it starts,” says Todd Crosset, a sports management professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and leading expert on coach-athlete relationships. “Abusive coaches will test the waters, but if you put up any sort of resistance, they’ll back off.”
Watch BOUNDARIES in their COACHES:
Coaches who are grooming children often show signs before they sexually abuse them.
They can seem more focused on relationships with kids than adults. They may turn to a child for emotional or physical comfort; they may share personal or private information or activities with a child/teen; they may even treat the child more like a peer… and then they may give excuses as to why they are “friends”.
They may seem overly interested in the players bodies or their dating relationships or talk to them about sexuality. They might allow their players to get away with inappropriate behaviors; they may show sexual images or tell dirty jokes or talk with them about sexual interactions. Oftentimes, they will spend excessive time emailing, text messaging, or calling their players or students. Ask your child to tell you or another safe adult if this happens to them or a friend. This may be a sign a child or teen is being groomed.
Parents should also keep a look out for coaches who seem to have secret interactions with players. Be aware of those who prefer certain ages or genders of student-athletes and who tend to have a “special” relationship with one player in particular.
Does your child’s coach insist on or manage to spend uninterrupted time alone with a particular player? Often we hear of coach/teacher/youth leader relationships that seem “too good to be true,” (i.e. takes teens to dinner or on special outings alone; buys them gifts for no reason; frequently babysits children for free) and end with terrible outcomes.
HERE IS A MENTAL CHECKLIST FOR PARENTS TO CONSIDER (from StopItNow!):
Experts say that if the answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” it is possible that a coach may be sexually abusing a player…
Does your child’s coach make her feel like she needs him in order to succeed?
Does your child’s coach spend time with you in an attempt to win your trust or try to be a surrogate parent?
Does your child’s coach act differently with her when in front of others?
Does your child’s coach try to control her (even off the field)?
Does your child’s coach try to separate her from her teammates or other sources of support, like you or her friends?
Does your child’s coach spend a lot more time with her than with other athletes?
Does your child’s coach try to be alone with her?
Does your child’s coach give her gifts?
Does your child’s coach tell her not to talk about personal encounters the two of them have had?
PARENTS, FOR THE SAKE OF PREVENTION, BE BOLD.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk that your child or a teammate will be a victim of sexual harassment or abuse is to set boundaries at a pre-season meeting. Boundaries provide clarity about the role of a coach, establishes predictability for everyone in what the coach-athlete relationship is to look like and promotes a safe and healthy learning environment.
It may feel awkward to bring this topic up as a parent, but honestly, it would be more awkward to face the reality of some type of risky behavior between a coach and a player and then dealing with the aftermath.
Some helpful examples (from our friends at StopItNow!):
Coaches will only be allowed to touch athletes where appropriate for teaching new skills or in spotting
Coaches will not be allowed into the locker rooms or showers when athletes are changing or showering
Some examples of social boundaries:
Coaches will attend only sport-related social events and awards banquets.
Coaches will avoid parties with athletes outside of sport-related situations.
Coaches will not accept personal gifts from, or give personal gifts to, athletes.
Coaches will not date his/her athletes.
Coaches will never purchase alcohol for his or her athletes.
Coaches will never have sexual relationships with athletes. There is no such thing as a consensual relationship between coach and athlete, no matter the age, because of the power that the coach has over the athlete, says Sabo.
Coaches will never sleep in the same room with his/her athletes in order to save money, or for any other excuse, while attending competitions.
SPEAK UP IF SOMETHING IS FISHY:
If you observe interactions or behaviors that concern you, speak up. Say, “I’m uncomfortable when you hug (name) after every race. How about high-fiving instead?”
If your child suddenly loses interest in an activity they previously enjoyed or tells you they want to quit their sport, consider the possibility that someone has caused them to feel uncomfortable or unsafe… or may be pushing them to quit for their own motives. Support your child’s decision while trying to understand what’s behind it by talking with child further and then with the coach or leader.
If a coach seems to be spending a lot of 1 on 1 time with your child, you need to say, “I’m not comfortable with you spending so much time with (name).” This doesn’t mean you are accusing them of anything, it simply means you are being clear on your boundaries.
Unfortunately, as a culture we are not very comfortable speaking up to other adults. But, we need to realize that we leave children vulnerable when we expect them to set these boundaries for themselves. Speak up for your kids! Help protect them!
IF YOU SENSE ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR:
Journal and keep track of behaviors that concern you. Talk to other parents about your concerns. Work together; take turns being at all sporting events and keeping an eye on things. Every once in a while show up early or unexpectedly and observe interactions.
Talk to your child straight-up. Talk with him about what goes on in practice (and outside of practice!). Ask questions. Get involved. Be engaged. Don’t sweet suspicion under the rug.
And if you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child may be suffering abuse or is being groomed for such, you should report it to school officials, the local child protection agency or the police.
Remember, the most effective prevention takes place before there’s a child victim to heal or an offender to punish.
If your child tells you that he or she is being harassed, groomed or abused…
Take them somewhere where they can talk freely. Assure them you will do all you can to protect them. Listen and believe. Remind them it wasn’t their fault. Show that you are proud of them. Tell them they are courageous. Never ignore even seemingly trivial calls for help. Support your child. Discuss their options. Help them to restore a sense of control in their lives by involving them in deciding how to deal with the problem. Reassure them over and over. Walk with them on the journey ahead. Always assuring them they did the right thing by telling and that you will be with them every step of the way.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. As you can probably imagine, it is a busy time for us at OneVOICE. We continue to work on details for our Anti-Trafficking mission in Cambodia—please consider supporting this vital mission! Meanwhile we are all over the U.S. map, where Nicole will be speaking out about abuse and trafficking…join us!
April 11: Poteau, Okahoma (Kiamichi Technology Center and a local coffeehouse)
April 15-17: Southern Wesleyan University, South Carolina (Wellness Week)
April 18: Ferris State University, Michigan (Take Back The Night)
April 30: Huntington University, Indiana (Chapel, RealTalk, etc)
April 30: Yellow Roses film screening at Vineyard Columbus, Ohio (Nicole will not be able to speak, as she is already scheduled at Huntington University, but you can still hear her share transparently as narrator in the film. Register here for a seat.)
HELLO, my VALENTINES!
I believe today is a fine day for me to reveal what is truly on my HEART since returning from Cambodia a few weeks ago. :) I hope you are ready!
My mission alongside the LIO film crew in Cambodia impacted me much more than I had expected it would. I continue to grieve for the children enslaved and the families affected by child sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. My heart yearns to continue efforts to reach and educate those vulnerable of being trafficked and to rescue and restore those who are currently in chains.
I know you are awaiting details on when my interviews with child sex slaves and mothers who unknowingly sold their daughters to traffickers will be aired.
(This woman’s story seriously broke me…you must to tune in to hear and see…)
Film producers are wrapping up edits and production for a 5-week campaign on the LIFE Today television show beginning in MID-MARCH. This means that for 5 weeks, you will be able to view footage and interviews DAILY!
And my FULL episode in-studio will air on Thursday March 28, so def dont miss that one!
(The lock on the OUTSIDE of a room where a tiny young girl I interviewed was forced to service 8-10 men a night. You will be able to hear her story and others on the show…)
This campaign will show you the truth and reality of sex trafficking of children in Cambodia, meanwhile raising support for Rescue LIFE and the incredible work they are doing around the world.
I am grateful for the partnership between OneVOICE and Rescue LIFE; I am also honored by the incredible support YOU have shown me personally as I continue on this mission to break the chains on sexual abuse and trafficking around the world.
Many have asked how they can get more involved or help support my work. I want to share with you my heart and some of my vision and the projects that I am working on; I invite you to partner with me to prayerfully and financially fund some the work ahead:
A. TRANSLATE HUSH into the language of KHMER.
will employ a missionary couple in Cambodia to translate my book Hush into Cambodia’s official language.
B. PRINT COPIES of HUSH to distribute to villages of Cambodia.
will cover printing costs so that we can pass out copies of Hush and anti-trafficking/abuse information, following an anti-trafficking educational program delivered to villages and locations around Cambodia.
C. FUND a team of OneVOICE ABOLITIONISTS to travel to Cambodia and present anti-trafficking programs.
will help us cover partial travel costs for our team to share a message to villages that are at very high-risk of being approached by traffickers. These traffickers disguise themselves as job agencies, promising health, happiness, education, great working conditions, opportunities and fortune to families in poor Cambodian villages, in exchange for 2 years of their childrens’ lives.
Uneducated and unaware, families believe these evildoers and send their young girls away with the hope of a life they could never give to their daughters… most of them never return.
The young girls who do return alive are so brain-damaged and emotionally-destroyed from the intense torture and trauma they experience that they will never be the same again. This has completely broken me, as you will see in the shows airing next month. We MUST reach and educate these parents and communities before another girl is sold into slavery.
D. Provide pencils and notebooks for the children in the countryside.
.75 (cents) for a notebook/pen for 1 child
will give us an opportunity to gather the children and present awareness education and pamphlets on anti-trafficking, as well as share the Gospel in small village communities across the countryside. We can gather hundreds of village children by simply providing these tools and presenting an educational message.
E. BUILD A SCHOOL BUILDING for CAMBODIAN CHILDREN who will become NATION-CHANGERS.
will build a new school building in the empty field adjacent to the current school building at the LIFE Center in Cambodia and give room for 70 more children per year to attend school!
The kids at the LIFE Center in Cambodia are truly becoming nation-changers. I have personally visited this beautiful facility; it is a beacon of hope and light in the midst of a dark land and they are doing a phenomenal job of educating and loving on Cambodian orphans and school kids.
The LIFE Center provides one of the highest quality schools in the nation, teaching not only the necessary education, but also English and the love of God; Life Center children also learn how to be self-sufficient, raising crops, fish farms and animals on the school property. These kids are being equipped in every way to change the face and future of their nation. Let’s expand their reach!
Breakdown of the building costs:
$7,000 for the building
$2,000 for the foundation
$800 to tile the floors
$200 for electrical and painting
I would love to see this building go up this summer, so that if I am able to go back and present anti-trafficking programming, then I may see the building firsthand and share with you the pictures and the joy of providing 70 more children the opportunity to become true nation-changers this fall.
:) Do it.
My Cambodia Rescue Life television series will begin airing in Mid-March (starting on March 18 I believe and running though April 26); I will update as I know, for certain.
So, there you go.
I may be dreaming…but that is what I do best.
I believe God has broken my heart and is empowering me to partner with you, that we might see these visions and dreams come to LIFE and, thus, that we may all be used to change the world.
I pray you will join me in this and consider helping educate at-risk communities and families about sex trafficking, protecting more children from becoming enslaved and empowering others to raise their voice against this evil that has taken over their nation.
PRAY with us!
And CLICK HERE TO GIVE to become a necessary part of this movement and mission! If you want to give to a specific project mentioned, please make a note of that when you make your donation.
Words of advice and experience from a friend/volunteer of OneVOICE and a mother of three on parenting with awareness and confidence without scaring your kids.
Here is Part 1 of 2 from Sara:
A few months ago, I took my kids and their 3 friends to an elementary school park to play during my son’s t-ball practice. With 5 girls in tow, the estrogen was high enough to make my 6 yr. old son run to his dugout. To kill time, my girls decided to teach me how to play foursquare. Now if anyone knows me well, they know I’m competitive. I had never heard of this game in all my years (don’t ask how many) and of course these girls decided to take advantage of my lack of experience. As we played, the rules became comfortable, my game face went on and I shut out all distractions from the world to kick some butt. Now, I realize it’s foursquare, and that’s pretty lame, but let’s be honest…I said I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose, even in foursquare.
Please don’t judge.
I was queen of foursquare for probably an hour and a half when I decided it was time to check on my son’s practice. As I started walking the 10 yards or so to his dugout, I turned to look back at my girls, still playing foursquare, but I froze in my tracks. Just a few feet from them, I noticed a man walking slowly next to them, taking pictures of them with his cell phone.
Mama Bear claws came out and I hustled myself back over to the girls, ready to pounce. As I was walking toward the girls, the man backed away and put the phone up to his ear as if he had a phone call. I wasn’t sure if I had jumped to conclusions or if this man was simply dialing his phone.
As I started to approach him, someone stopped me and advised me to be careful because this man has had a history of sitting on the swings, watching the little girls play and there was suspicion that he was up to no good. I was told that whenever this man had been approached by a concerned parent, he has taken off running.
At that point, I wasn’t concerned about being a small boned female…my blood was pumping and I had words to say to this man. I turned to approach him and he had vanished. I searched around the corner and even in the bushes, knowing that there was no way someone could just disappear from the site in 30 seconds. According to witnesses, my suspicions were right and one man was ready to jump in and get rid of the creeper his own way.
Thank God for men who care enough about kids to act, even for someone they don’t know.
What shocked me the most was the creeper’s close proximity – he seemed to not consider the risk of a mom being in such close proximity. How long had he been near us and why hadn’t I noticed? This prompted me to be more aware of my surroundings and to teach my children the same.
I know that kids can listen to cautionary words from a parent and it can go in one ear and out the other. So, I made a game of it (of course I did because I’m competitive, remember?).
The next day, we ran into the grocery story for milk. As soon as we left, I asked them about our cashier: Was it a boy or girl? What color were they wearing? How tall? How old? Who was in front of us? Who dropped the box of cereal when we walked down the aisle? They could only answer one question. So, we now frequently play the game of memory when we get in the car to and from places.
My kids are learning to pay attention to detail, to be more aware of situations around them—in a fun way. I didn’t have to put the fear of God into them, but they remain confident as they watch and look around. We also have competitions (are you shocked?) to count the people we see on our way to the car, so I know they are looking all around them as they walk through parking lots. Teaching confidence and alertness to kids is a great alternative to teaching them fear and paranoia.
Let’s face it, there are scary stories out there sending fear through our veins, causing us to consider all the “what-ifs” as parents. Take your knowledge and turn it into instilling confidence into your children. Focus more on what you and your child can do than on what a bad guy can do. Building your child’s inner confidence is not only beneficial for dangerous situations but also for a healthy self-esteem!
She sat on the front seat of the subway. She was a very pretty girl, approximately sixteen, with big brown eyes and long black hair. A baby sat in a stroller and a man sat next to her, holding her close. As she pulled her hair from her face, a tattoo on her neck emerged. The tattoo was a name; her pimp’s name.
To everyone around, she was a teenage mom. To me, she was a child sex trafficking victim.
The subway stopped. The girl stood and adjusted the short, short skirt. Her big brown eyes darkened and sadness emerged. She could hardly walk in the 6” heels and the man now firmly gripped her arm. She pulled at her skirt and stumbled on her heels as they walked down the subway; she was going to work.
Young victims of child sex trafficking are virtually invisible and have no voice. With your help, we are bringing this issue into the light and giving a voice to the victims. Thank you for your support and standing and walking with us to bring awareness and a voice to this horrific crime.
To support our friends at Gracehaven, the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event not only takes a stand to bring awareness, but it is an important way for us to continue this mission of breaking the silence and rescuing victims of sex trafficking!
Please help make a difference!
Join us on Saturday, June 16th in Columbus, Ohio to Walk A Mile In Her Shoes and help create awareness about this horrific crime (more info on the Gracehaven website).
Or give financially at www.gracehavenhouse.org. You can make a difference!
April is both our National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and our National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Needless to say it is a very important chunk of the year for us at OneVOICE. As founder of the organization and as a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I felt compelled to share tidbits on the blog every day this month as a way of keeping awareness and prevention alive.
If you follow me on Twitter you know I post many “tidbits” daily, but for those who remain Twitterless or who prefer to follow bloggers, I hope you will find this month at OneVOICE Babble helpful and that you will visit often!
We will be giving away a FREE book/shirt/etc each week to a random person who comments on the blog. Please share your thoughts and insights and encourage others.
Let’s start with some simple stats:
Did you know?
It is estimated that 1 in every 3 girls and 1 in every 6 boys are sexually abused the age of 18.
National studies have revealed that at a given time, approximately 35% of kids less than 18 years of age had been molested.
4 out of 5 cases of childhood sexual abuse are committed by someone that the child knows.
30-40% of children are abused by family members.
Sexual abuse cuts across all boundaries: race, religion, gender, and all cultural, educational and socioeconomic levels.
Most child victims never report the abuse.
I am angry, grieved and just plain sick over the number of attempted and completed child abductions in our world. It is especially ripping at my heart tonight, knowing most often child abduction equals underage sex trafficking—children being forced into prostitution and child pornography. It is time we do more to stop this. We must work from both ends… eliminating the demand for sex slaves/child porn is one piece… protecting children and educating the world is the other.
We must have a constant eye on all kids, not just our own. In an effort to help educate us as parents, friends, babysitters, siblings, youth leaders, teachers, etc., I felt it important to share some solid tips from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
For the Children,
Here are 10 tips for helping keep kids safe:
An analysis by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children of attempted abductions during the past five years found that children are at most risk when going to and from school or school related activities.
Parents and other adults can help keep children safe by following these ten tips:
-Teach your children to always TAKE A FRIEND with them when walking or biking, and stay with a group while standing at the bus stop. Make sure they know which bus to ride.
-Walk the route to and from school with your children pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. Teach your children they should NEVER TAKE SHORTCUTS and always stay in well-lit areas.
-It is not safe for young children to walk to and from school, even in a group. Parents should always provide supervision for young children to help ensure their safe arrival to and from school. If your children wait for a bus, wait with them or make arrangements for supervision at the bus stop.
-Teach your children that if anyone bothers them, makes them feel scared or uncomfortable to trust their feelings and immediately get away from that person. Teach them it is ok not to be polite and IT IS OK TO SAY NO.
-Teach your children if anyone tries to take them somewhere they should RESIST by kicking and screaming, try to run away and DRAW ATTENTION by kicking and screaming “This person is trying to take me away” or “This person is not my father/mother.”
-Teach your children NOT TO ACCEPT A RIDE from anyone unless you have said it is ok in that instance. If anyone follows them in a vehicle they should turn around, go in the other direction, and run to a trusted adult who may help them.
-Teach your children that grownups should NOT ASK CHILDREN FOR DIRECTIONS, they should ask other adults.
-Teach your children to NEVER ACCEPT MONEY OR GIFTS from anyone unless you have told them it is ok to accept in each instance.
-Make sure the school has current and accurate emergency contact information on file for your children and confirm names of those authorized.
-Always know where your children will be. Teach your children to always CHECK FIRST before changing their plans before or after school. Teach your children to never leave school, with anyone unless they CHECK FIRST with you or another trusted adult, even if someone tells them it is an emergency.
Children should be taught to trust their feelings. They need to know that if someone makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, they should tell a parent, guardian, or trusted adult.