Parents have an important role on keeping kids safe in youth sports

Every so often there is a new report – or a wave of reports – concerning sexual misconduct in youth sports, with a resulting wave of searches for solutions. Both the government and  both the government and advocacy groups

The fact is, though, that the most effective solution for your family is very much in your own hands, and it’s as much your responsibility as putting food on the table: The key ingredient to the sexual health and safety of your child in youth sports is your own involvement.

Below is a letter that you’ll probably never see printed anywhere else:

 

Dear Parent:
Welcome to Main Street Sports League! We hope your child has a great experience in our program. Our policy is to conduct a criminal background check on all our paid staff and volunteer coaches. This will allow us to identify the approximately 5 percent of child molesters who have been reported to police, caught, charged, and convicted of a sex crime. We can’t protect your child from the other 95% without your help.

Spectators in our bleachers, vendors in the food stands, maintenance contractors working on the field, and others can potentially be near your child. They have not been screened, so we lack even the minimal 5 percent safety net here.

Pedophiles, one type of child molester, are people whose primary sexual attraction is to children. They often develop relationships with children based on trust, friendship and affection that lead to sexual abuse disguised as sex play. Most pedophiles have learned to identify children who really enjoy or even need attention from adults; predators are particularly interested in the children less likely to be supervised by parents or other adults. Hebephiles and ephebophiles, predators attracted to adolescents and teens, are similarly taking stock of opportunities.

 

Attending your child’s practice and games has many benefits for you and your family, but probably none as important as the added measure of safety that extra pairs of eyes and ears offer your child, our team, and our community.


Sincerely,
Commissioner, Main Street Sports League

Now, of course it’s impossible for most busy working parents to attend every single game and practice for each of their children who participate in sports programs. But if a predator happens to find that your child matches his or her attraction, he or she will begin to watch to see how much attention you are paying to your child.

So, get out of your minivan and talk to your son’s coach at pickup or drop off. Arrive a few minutes before your daughter’s gymnastics practice ends and watch from the bleachers. When you’re organizing your schedule for the week, pretend practice ends fifteen minutes before it really does, leave the iPhone in the car, and pay attention to your child’s athleticism, and interactions with other athletes and the adults. Talk about it on the way home.

Can’t do it all on your own? Team up with another working parent with a child on the same team and take turns doing this—and be sure to cheer on all kids. Be wary of teams or clubs that overly restrict parental access to practices or coaching sessions.  I suggest that teams add a new volunteer role to their roster, along with snack-parent, or car-pool parent —   add a ‘stand-parent’, whose job it is to be in the stand keeping an eye out for any child whose parents could not be there.   You’re not just taking my word here about the importance of  knowing that a grown-up is watching; this warning and advice comes straight from the mouths of convicted child molesters I interviewed, whose perspectives helped inform my books.

Background checks, great policies and even certain laws might help, but nothing is more important than the watchful eyes of an aware, loving and communicative adult.

Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Executive Director of  The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children  and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.  For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.
originally publisher at   http://www.philly.com/philly/health/kids-families/Sexual-misconduct-in-youth-sports-What-can-parents-do.html

There’s a lot of Sex-Wise Parents in Nebraska!

The Central Nebraska Child Advocacy Center hosted me for a full day of training for professionals from law enforcement,  child protection, education, counseling  and more!   We even enjoyed a visit from the local chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse!

We covered everything from psychosexual development of children  to characteristics of high functioning teams.

Sadly, the newly sex-wise parents who came to the event were all professionals who came to  to improve their job skills; the community parents who had preregistered didn’t make it.    Read the story in the local news paper here:    bit.ly/1Jcabd6

But the full day event for professionals was a rousing success!  Contact me to plan an an event for your community now!

A lesson for parents from a pedophile

A lesson for parents from a pedophile

A convicted child molester in Florida recently contacted a tv station to tell how he had succeeded in abusing two young girls in the same family over a two-year period, and several others in the same community.

It’s hard to say why he came forward now (you can read about it here), and it’s hard to know how much of his story is true, but I worked with pedophiles as a counselor early in my career and interviewed others researching my book  for my book for parents, and his remarks certainly ring true to me.

He offers one lesson you can take to the bank: Earning the children’s trust was easy because “If they believe that you will listen to them they start asking you questions about the body and sex that they are afraid to talk to their parents and others about. That’s really how it got started.”

Most everybody is very careful about discussing body issues with their children, and why? Most parents would probably say they want to protect their kids from information that’s inappropriate or that they’re  too young to handle. But these attempts to be careful are actually having the opposite effect.

I would argue that parents are really protecting themselves — needlessly — from starting a conversation that makes them uncomfortable to think about. But what we can see from this molester in Florida is that by protecting yourself you’re leaving a big open window through which a pedophile can grab your child. Or, as in this case, your children.

I don’t suggest you run around the house naked or make sex a part of every conversation. And you can’t do the job in one talk or in one day anymore than you can teach a child about love, respect and kindness in a week.

But if you don’t start the conversation, someone else might, and then your family could be in trouble.

The Sex-Wise Parent  walks parents through the steps of raising sexually safe and healthy children. Sure, it takes a little doing. But they’re your kids, and they deserve it.

And if you don’t teach them what every kid wants and needs to know about their bodies, you never can tell who will.

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, a good excuse to talk to your kids about sexuality!

Parents are the strongest influence on their children’s decisions about sex and sexuality, yet most parents underestimate their own power. A major national survey reported in 2010 that 46 percent of teens continue to say that parents most influence their decisions about sex, while just 20 percent say friends most influence their decisions. At the same time, parents overestimate the influence media and friends have on their children’s decisions about sex and underestimate their own.

The same study tells us that 88 percent of parents agree with the statement that “parents believe they should talk to their kids about sex but often don’t know what to say, how to say it, or when to start.” (Albert 2010) It’s easy to see why:They were raised in the era I’ve dubbed “The Neutered Nineties”. That’s when we traded rational discussion about sexuality for Megan’s Laws and sex offender registries, in the name of ‘prevention.’ It’s when cash-strapped school districts had to teach abstinence-only topics or lose federal funding. And when answering a question about masturbation at an AIDS conference got the U.S. surgeon general fired. Too many adults stopped talking to kids about sex. Qualified professionals went quiet and left a vacuum too easily filled by people who sexually offend.

Accurate and age-appropriate information about sex all but disappeared from most professional work in child sexual abuse, and it’s time to put it back.

Where to start? With two critical messages for our children:

They need to know accurate names for all their body parts; and

They need to understand that physical sexual arousal is an autonomic response — like getting goosebumps when tickled.

One now-grown female victim of child sexual abuse I interviewed for The Sex-Wise Parent told me that good touch-bad touch programs can actually be dangerous to a victim because sometimes the touch actually feels good! Further, men who were victims of sexual abuse report that the confusion resulting from a climax is one of the most difficult issues resolve.

People who sexually offend exploit children’s guilt and their lack of knowledge related to sexuality often try to convince them  that they must have actually enjoyed the abuse because of a physical response over which they have no control. Understanding sexual response is important for boys and girls — people who prey on teen-aged girls exploit the fact that very few girls understand that their physical response to a sexual thought, feeling or touch has absolutely nothing to do with love.

Language and knowledge that parents equip children with are a defense against abuse. Raising a child who knows the parts of his or her body, and knows that it’s safe to tell parents or a trusted adult if they have been touched, can prevent their victimization and probably other children’s, too. And, if abuse occurs, harm may be mitigated if the child understands their body’s response.

For parents who need support as they heed the advice to ‘talk early-talk often,’ I suggest practicing with friends and getting used to using sexual terms without discomfort. Take turns role-playing, asking each other the kinds of questions you fear getting from your children. Watch this video for ideas and encouragement. This may not be easy at first, but the reward can be lifelong — a sexually safe and healthy child!

Pubished by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at   http://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/saam/sex-wise-parents-can-raise-sexually-safer-and-healthier-kids

What parents might learn from the Steubenville rape case

At this point in my life very few things cause an instinctive terror response. The Guy Fawkes masks donned the by the international hackers group Anonymous has the effect — maybe it’s the soulless eyes, or the overall look of a maniacal clown. A few weeks ago, I woke to that image as CNN ran a video of someone behind that mask explaining why they’d hacked private websites and E-mail accounts to expose the rape of an adolescent at a high-school party in Steubenville, Ohio. My reaction to the mask paled in comparison to my reaction to the cell-phone video of an unconscious girl apparently being violated by laughing boys WHILE OTHER KIDS STOOD BY! Oh – and the boys were star high school football players —-sorry, but I can’t feel  surpise at that!

This video of this disgusting act was shot last August, so this is not ‘news’ in that sense. Witnesses had posted photos, videos and twit-pics which were found by former Steubenville resident and blogger Alexandria Goddard before they were removed from the private accounts,  She  turned over to the police anticipating an investigation. Not much happened at first and blame appears to fall on the cozy relationship between members of the law enforcement community and the football coach. Then Anonymous blew the lid off this whole sordid affair, making it public and stating that they will not allow “a group of young men who turn to rape as a game or sport get the pass because of athletic ability or small-town luck.”

Then came the community hand-wringing — we heard the usual crud. How could this happen in such a nice town? The alleged rapists were ‘good boys’ who made a bad choice, or the girl should not have been drinking. We heard all of that and more at the trial, and a news commentator cause a stir when she suggested that the boys lives were ruined as well by the verdict.

Really.

Wake up people! It’s the adults who failed here! They sent their kids out into the social world unprepared. Adolescents are fundamentally unable to make wise decisions. Their brains aren’t fully developed, they lack impulse control, they lack empathy but one thing they do not lack is sexual urges. Adolescents need adults to set limits, set standards and keep them in check! It is our job to coach kids into healthy, productive adulthood, not to reward violent, aggressive and selfish behavior. Parents need to be darn sure that their child understands the meaning of mutual consent (for example to having sex, or to being photographed nude and unconscious)  and how important that is for moral reasons, and not just legal ones.

There’s a lesson here for parents. Kids need limits. Kids need to be taught empathy until it’s naturally part of their consciousness. Kids need to know that their sexual arousal is theirs and theirs alone. Kids need to learn that sex is an expression of love and not a drinking game.  Too many parents assume that their kids are getting these lessons from school or their faith-based organization, and statistics show that this is just not true.  Parents must find the courage to be uncomfortable and fill their kids with their family values about sex and  accurate information how bodies, minds and hearts, and start  early.   I wrote The Sex-Wise Parent to help parents do that.

Caring people everywhere must speak out and change the norms of communities everywhere that tolerate adults sponsoring drinking parties and protecting sexual predators. Our kids  — boys and girls —deserve more. And, adults who tolerate violent behavior and support underage drinking should be ashamed of themselves and prosecuted as accessories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point in my life very few things cause an instinctive terror response. The Guy Fawkes masks donned the by the international hackers group Anonymous has the effect — maybe it’s the soulless eyes, or the overall look of a maniacal clown. This morning, I woke to that image as CNN ran a video of someone behind that mask explaining why they’d hacked private websites and E-mail accounts to expose the rape of an adolescent at a high-school party in Steubenville, Ohio. My reaction to the mask paled in comparison to my reaction to the cell-phone video of an unconscious girl apparently being violated by laughing boys WHILE OTHER KIDS STOOD BY! Oh – and the boys were star high school football players —- can you guess where this is going?

This video of this disgusting act was shot last August, so this is not ‘news’ in that sense. Witnesses had posted photos, videos and twit-pics which were found by former Steubenville resident and blogger Alexandria Goddard before they were removed from the private accounts.  She turned this material over to the police anticipating an investigation. Not much happened at first and blame appears to fall on the cozy relationship between members of the law enforcement community and the football coach. Then Anonymous blew the lid off this whole sordid affair, making it public and stating that they will not allow “a group of young men who turn to rape as a game or sport get the pass because of athletic ability or small-town luck.”

Now comes the community hand-wringing — get ready to hear the usual crud. How could this happen in such a nice town? The alleged rapists were ‘good boys’ who made a bad choice, or the girl should not have been drinking.

Really.

Wake up people! It’s the adults who failed here! They sent their kids out into the social world unprepared. Adolescents are fundamentally unable to make wise decisions. Their brains aren’t fully developed, they lack impulse control, they lack empathy but one thing they do not lack is sexual urges. Adolescents need adults to set limits, set standards and keep them in check! It is our job to coach kids into healthy, productive adulthood, not to reward violent, aggressive and selfish behavior. Parents need to be darn sure that their child understands the meaning of mutual consent (for example to having sex, or to being photographed nude and unconscious) and how important that is for moral reasons and not just legal ones.

There’s  more lessons here for parents. Kids need limits. Kids need to be taught empathy until it’s naturally part of their consciousness. Kids need to know that their sexual arousal is theirs and theirs alone. Kids need to learn that sex is an expression of love and not a drinking game. Too many parents assume that their kids are getting these lessons from school or their faith-based organization, and statistics show that this is just not true. Parents must find the courage to be uncomfortable and fill their kids with their family values about sex and accurate information bodies, minds and hearts, and start early. It’s not easy — that’s why  I wrote The Sex-Wise Parent , to help parents.

Caring people  must speak out and change the norms of communities everywhere that tolerate adults sponsoring drinking parties and protecting sexual predators. Our kids deserve more and we can  and must give it to them.

And, adults who tolerate sexual violence and support underage drinking should be ashamed of themselves and prosecuted as accessories. There’s a lesson in that too!

Forgive, but don’t forget

If I ever doubted the number of people who were sexually abused as a child, my current work promoting my book, The Sex-Wise Parent has brought me right back to sad reality.  I have yet to leave an event without  at least one survivor  sharing their story.  Many have a lesson that I feel compelled to share and last week’s lesson was about the double edged sword of forgiveness.

After one event a woman approached me to speak.   I had noticed her in the crowd; the entire time I while I had been speaking, she  the maintained steady eye contact, often  nodding in agreement with my statements.

She thanked me for my voice on the topic of sex abuse prevention, and  shared that she had been victimized as a young child.  Her parents moved her family far from their family of origin and sent her back every summer for an extended visit with her relatives.

Between  the ages of 6  to 12 a member of her summer household raped her at his convenience.  She quietly and calmly described her terror of using the bathroom or bathing,  because she knew that being undressed made her more vulnerable.  She had no one to tell in her summer home, and no words to tell her parents when she returned home.

The abuse ended decades ago when the rapist got old enough to leave the household.  My informant shared that she was much loved by her parents and found solace in her religion.  She shared that through grace and hard work with a therapist she forgave the abuser and went on with her life.  She told me that if they were both at the same family event, no one would know what he’d done to her.  She seemed calm and at peace with her ability to move on and maintain the peace within her extended family.

Until I asked how she knew that other children were safe.

She was taken off guard by my question, thought for a minute then replied that he only did it to her.  I tried to be gentle with my reminder that most predators have multiple victims and she just said “no, no.”

It is highly unlikely that I will  ever see  this woman again and I don’t know the decision she will make, but I hope she  was able to take some steps to make sure a predator is not terrorizing children.  If this were your friend, would you ask them to trade their family’s peace for the potential of saving a child?

Ever hear of an ephebophile? They are just like pedophiles, except they’re after teens!

The story of Brittni Colleps, a Texas school teacher charged with having sex with four students at her home, is a sickening example of a loss of discipline in the people and institutions to whom we entrust our children.

As upsetting as it is, this case can give parents the opportunity and motivation to make sure that their schools, and their children, are safe from type of sexual predator. And it is predation – even though the (alleged) victims were all over 18, they were students in Colleps’ school and we depend on that relationship to be friendly and professional, but not sexual.

Have a look at my checklist to determine if the ‘sexual climate’ in your child’s school might also allow this kind of behavior.

Sexual climate in this context is a variation of “school climate”, a concept used by scholars of educational administration to describe the “feel” of being is a specific school. While “school culture” refers to the rules, policies and procedures of a school district and is uniform throughout a school district, the climate can vary greatly from school to school, depending on the faculty, staff, students, or even factors like the design of a building. The sexual climate in a school where a teacher might be sexually involved with a number of students is clearly dangerous.

The Sandusky case and clergy scandals have placed a bright spotlight on pedophiles, adults who are sexually attracted to young children and eventually sexualize their trust and affection, generally leading to rape. The allegations against Brittny Colleps remind us that there is more than one type of sexual predator lusting after our kids.

Professionals use the term hebephile for someone with a preference for children just entering puberty and the term ephebophile to describe someone with an attraction to older adolescents. You don’t need to remember the names; you do need to understand that the need to know every adult who spends time with our kids does not end with elementary school.

An example of the destruction an ephebophile can leave in his path might be found in the story of Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky was sexually involved with her high school drama teacher, a man described in a HBO special by other students in her school as a known predator. If kids know which teachers are predators, adults stand a chance of knowing as well. There are easy steps that any parent can take, including recognizing the prevalence of these relationships, maintaining open communication with a teen, and knowing every adult who spends alone-time with them. Then, consider talking with other parents to answer these questions.

Allegations like those against Brittni Colleps and the reports of convictions of teachers from schools all over the country remind us that sexual predators can be of any age or gender. If we read the report published by the US Department of Education — and I urge you to follow this link — Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature — you’ll see how common this behavior really is.

But if you’ll read my checklist you’ll see that there are steps a Sex-Wise Parent can take to ensure that the sexual climate of the schools serving their kids will promote sexual health and safety.

 

Penn State may not be the exception when it comes to sexual culture and climate

As the shock of the contents of the Freeh report settles in, this is a good time to remember that no single school has cornered the market  on being a risk to the sexual health and safety of students.    A  report  published  by the U.S. Department of Education says that various studies show that as many as 5 percent of kids report a sexual contact with a school employee sometime during their school experience.  I’ve written about this before, and I’ll keep writing about this until every single parent is prepared to consider and understand the sexual climate of their child’s school and every other institution where the child spends time.

Section 5414 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended required a study of sexual abuse in U.S. schools and the United States Department of Education contracted with Dr. Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University to complete a literature review and analysis. You can — and should — read the entire report entitled Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature .

Shakeshaft reviewed and critiqued dozens of studies on sexual abuse in schools and no matter how we slice and dice her results — even if she is off by a factor of 10 (which I totally doubt) her findings should make any parent stand up and take notice. Parents of young, prepubescent children need to be aware of the way pedophiles can ingratiate themselves into the life of your child and family, gaining trust then violating it in the most unimaginably devastating manner. Actually, now that we’ve read the Sandusky indictment and the Freeh report, it’s tragically not so unimaginable anymore.

By the time our kids become teens, we are less worried about pedophiles and more worried about stupid, manipulative adults of either gender. Many adolescents, particularly girls, appear to be a sexually mature adult years before their social, emotional and intellectual development catch up to their bodies. While many of us know about school-girl crushes that teens develop on adults, it’s also true that adults develop crushes on kids. Whether it’s the male teacher living out his mid-life crisis with a crush on a young girl, or the young, plain-jane teacher responding to her first experience of male adoration, there is a surprisingly large number of possibilities for indiscretions. And too many teachers are completely unprepared for this experience.

I devote a great deal of time to this issue in The Sex-Wise Parent.  I use Monica Lewinsky as an example since her experience with a predatory teacher seems to have played a role in her being sentenced to life as the punch line of a joke.  Every person who enjoyed a laugh at her expense should know that Monica learned to trade sex for status from one of her high school teachers.  Further, interviews aired on national TV make it clear that many people knew this teacher was a predator!

Whether we’re talking about Jerry Sandusky operating with impunity at Penn State or Monica’s teacher having his pick of the graduating seniors, the sexual climate is way off balance in many of the institutions serving our kids.  Parents need the tools and skills to understand; to open the discussion, see my checklist and check this site often for more information.

 

The double-edged sword of forgiveness

If I ever doubted the number of people who were sexually abused as a child, promoting my book, The Sex-Wise Parent has brought me right back to sad reality.  I have yet to leave an event without at least one survivor sharing his or her story.  Many have a lesson that I feel compelled to share and last week’s lesson was about the double edged sword of forgiveness.

A woman approached me to speak after a small event.    I had noticed her in the crowd because she had maintained steady eye contact with me throughout my remarks, often nodding in agreement as I spoke.

She thanked me for my voice on the topic of sex abuse prevention, and shared that she had been victimized as a young child after parents moved her family far from their extended family and sent her back every summer for an extended visit with her relatives.

Between the ages of 6  and 12 a member of her summer household  did what I can only describe as repeatedly rape her at his convenience.  She quietly and calmly described her terror of using the bathroom or bathing because she knew that being undressed made her more vulnerable.  She had no one to tell in her summer home, and no words to tell her parents when she returned home.

The abuse ended decades ago when the rapist got old enough to leave the household.  My informant shared that she was much loved by her parents and found solace in her religion.  She shared that through grace and hard work with a therapist she forgave the abuser and went on with her life.  She told me that if they were both at the same family event, no one would know what he’d done to her.  She seemed calm and at peace with her ability to move on and maintain the peace within her extended family.

Until I asked how she knew that other children were safe.

She was taken off guard by my question, thought for a minute then replied that he only did it to her.  I tried to be gentle with my reminder that most predators have multiple victims and she just said “no, no.”

It is highly unlikely that I will ever see this woman again and I don’t know the decision she will make. I can only hope she was able to take some steps to make sure a predator is not terrorizing children.

If this were your friend, would you ask them to trade their family’s peace for the potential of saving a child?