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Penn State Scandal: Talk to Kids About Abuse

Months ago, in July, we  wrote about  the tragic murder of Leiby Kletzky and raising awareness on teaching children about stranger danger and self-protection.

The orphanage in Netanya works with victims of abuse on a daily basis. These girls are receiving the care and counseling they need but they would not be there if someone had not decided to alert the authorities about their situation. And good people stepped in to help.

CBS News: In this Oct. 22, 2011 file photo, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno walks off the field after warm ups before Penn State’s NCAA college football game against Northwestern, in Evanston, Ill. Paterno has decided to retire at the end of the season. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching, File)

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier were both fired Wednesday night, November 9th, by the school board of trustees due to how the school handled child-sex abuse allegations against assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. According to CBS News Paterno followed the letter of the law in disclosing an allegation of child abuse but failed to follow up on those allegations, allowing an accused sexual predator to remain free of investigation for nine years.

While it is important to look out for the signs of abuse, it is also important to teach the victims to recognize when they are being hurt and to not fear telling others, or giving up when their cries fall on deaf ears. But how exactly do we go about talking to the children in our lives about tough topics like this?

There’s no need to hype worst-case scenarios, says Alison Feigh, community safety specialist for the National Child Protection Training Center, in this Time Magazine Article. Instead, talk with older children about acknowledging their gut instinct and with younger children about how to recognize their uh-oh feeling. “Use teachable moments,” says Feigh. “You’re not going to bring up Penn State with a 3-year-old. But we know it’s older kids, 12-to-17-year-olds, who are more at risk. So don’t stop talking about personal safety when your kids get out of elementary school.”

This Fox News video discusses using the recent scandal as a starting point for the conversation if you haven’t had it yet, or as a refresher if you already have.

According to this Oprah article, who herself was an victim of sexual abuse, Keeping an open line of communication with your kids is key. Use these suggestions as ways to develop a healthy discussion with your children about sexual abuse.
  • Use proper or semi-proper names for body parts and phrases like: Private parts are “private and special.”
  • Tell your children that if anyone touches or tries to see their private parts; tries to get them to touch or look at another person’s private parts; shows them pictures of or tries to take pictures of their private parts; talks to them about sex; walks in on them in the bathroom; or does anything that makes them feel uncomfortable to tell you or a “support person” as soon as they can.
  • Tell your children that some children and adults have “touching problems.” These people can make “secret touching” look accidental, and they should still tell you even if they think it might have been an accident.
  • Tell your children that touching problems are kind of like stealing or lying, and that the people who have those kinds of problems need special help so they don’t continue to have problems or get into trouble. Don’t describe it as a “sickness.”
  • Tell your children that some people try to trick kids into keeping touching a secret. Tell your children, “We don’t want those kinds of secrets in our family.”
  • Give your children examples of things that someone might use to try to get them to keep a secret: candy, money, special privileges, threats, subtle fear of loss, separation, or punishment.
  • Make sure they have support people they can talk to at home, at school, in their extended family, neighborhood or religious center. Have them pick out three people and tell you who they are. Put the phone numbers next to your home phone and let them know that, if for any reason they cannot talk to you, they should call or go see another support person.

Most importantly, Children need to know that they have the right to say “NO!” and Tell even when the offender is someone they know, like, love or even live with. They are still a good person, they are still lovable and that you will always love them no matter what!

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  1. Bullying; End the Violence: Lead by Example » Welcome to Lev LaLev's Blog!

    […] think bullying is just done by peers, as we saw with Penn State, victims of abuse can have the pain of bullying added on by those who should help them, but cover […]

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