The words sexual exploitation evoke a number of reactions and feelings. Perhaps one of the most devastating is silence-our inability or unwillingness as a society to speak about this horrific problem. That same silence may also impact a child who has been sexually exploited. Children may be frightened or intimidated into not telling. They may feel they won’t be believed or what happened is their fault. All of these feelings may cause them to hide their pain. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has posted these steps for families:
What families can do:
- Listen to your children
- Pay attention if they do not want to go with someone or someplace
- Take the time to talk with your children
- Notice when someone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or giving them gifts
- Teach your children they have the right to say No to any touch or actions by others that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused. Teach them to immediately tell you if this happens
- Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behavior or attitude
- Look and listen to small cues because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings
- If your children do confide-strive to remain calm-noncritical and nonjudgmental. Listen and work with them to get the help they need
- Screen babysitters and caregivers.
- Check the public registry for prior criminal records or sexual offenses
- Check references and drop in unexpectedly on your care givers
- Provide oversight and supervision of computer usage and establish rules and guidelines.
- Be an active participant in children activities and observe other adult interaction
- Work with your children’s school to develop sound child-safety programs
Practice basic safety skills with your children and discuss these openly and honestly
What schools can do:
- Make sure teacher, volunteers and anyone else that has access to children is properly screened and trained
- Implement/enforce policies for reporting child abuse
- Establish protocols and screening for school computer use-train teachers/staff protocols
- Choose or develop child-safety programs for the school that are based on accepted educational theories that are appropriate for the age/educational level/ developmental abilities; design these to build self-confidence in order to better handle and protect themselves in all types of situations.
- Assess your environmental structure and provide adequate supervision
- Provide education and information to students to easily access help.
- Provide programs to educate and inform community/parents and transporters methods of response
What communities can do:
- Notify the public of the sex-offender registry provide a community notification requirement
- Raise awareness with seminars
- Hold public meetings establish computer awareness and trainings on networking community responses
- Assess your environmental structures
- Mobilize child serving groups as watch and monitoring groups
- Assess your local law enforcement for immediate responses for child abduction