Asking the Right Questions

Over the last year I have noticed discussion about whether or not parents should allow their children to attend sleepovers. Before I dive any further into this conversation I want each reader to know that there is no right or wrong answer. This is a decision that should be made within a family. Every family is different and every person is different. Choosing one option over the other does not make one family “better” or “worse” than the other. Until I started seeing these news articles on my social media feed, I had not really given much thought to sleepovers, to be honest. One particular article struck me as quite informative and helpful in thinking about what I may or may not want for my future family.

The article was written in the summer of 2015 and updated in September 2015 by Tonya GJ Prince and here is the link to the original post: http://www.wesurviveabuse.com/2015/07/how-good-parents-miss-child-sexual.html I hope you will read her post before continuing.

In the post she describes a time when she picked her son up from a birthday party and asked the “typical” questions parents ask- did you behave? Did you listen? Did you have fun? Do you want to come back again? As she began driving down the road, she felt like something was wrong. She reflected back on an abusive experience that occurred when she was a child. Her mother had asked her the “typical” questions in the presence of the abuser rather than in private.

The author then realizes that asking those questions at the door when you are picking up your child may not be the best time. Or if you do ask those questions at the door, follow up with them on the car ride home and ensure the child he/she has permission to change their earlier answers. If you read the blog, you will see what can happen when you simply rely on the answers to the typical questions at the door. She also offers some questions that I believe will generate better conversation about the child’s time at the sleepover or party.

“How did you spend your time?”

“What was your favorite part of the party?”

“What was the least favorite part?”

“Did you feel safe?”

“Was there anything else you wanted to share?”

As a child and teenager I spent many nights at my friends’ houses and family members’ houses and they were for the most part very positive experiences. I grew socially and became more independent by staying away from home. Even with all those fun, safe, and memorable times away from home, the reality is that abuse can still happen. I have seen both sides of the “sleepover coin.” My abuser assaulted my friend and I during what began as a game. My friend was hurt and my house was no longer “safe.” So I know it can happen even when you think it can’t or won’t.

 My hope is that this blog will continue to spark the conversation about empowering our children to identify when things are no longer safe and actions they can take to get to safety and educating parents on the right questions to ask after a child’s time away at any event or activity- not just sleepovers.  

Now that I’ve finished writing this post, I realize it isn’t that much about sleepovers, but more about ensuring our kids safety at all places.

Teddy Bear

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Disrupting Routines

In previous posts, I have described abusers as master manipulators and explained how they employ a variety of predatory actions to harm their victims. In this post, I am going to focus on how some abusers seek routine activities to gain access to a child repeatedly and how parents can be on the lookout for this occurrence. For the most part, in our culture, we thrive on routine- work, school, church, extra-curricular activities, date night, movie night, game night, etc. When in balance, routine is generally very healthy and promotes a sense of security. Unfortunately, abusers sometimes access this routine or create one of their own.

For many, August 16, 1999 is just another day. For some it may be a birthday or an anniversary or have a significant meaning. But who remembers it as the premiere of the game show “Who wants to be a Millionaire,” hosted by Regis Philbin? If you like game shows, you are probably thinking “oh yeah, I remember when he hosted that and it was popular.” Or, if you were really dedicated to the show, you may remember the first person winning the huge million dollar prize. It wasn’t until a few years ago that this date gained significance for me. I was trying to piece together a timeline of my life when it finally occurred to me that if I could figure out the premiere date of this show, I could learn when the more severe abuse began. Courtesy of google and some other websites, I learned the history of the show.

Prior to that August date, I do not recall having much one on one time with my abuser. At eight years old, when the previews started airing for “Who wants to be a Millionaire,” I became intrigued and couldn’t contain my excitement for it to air. My abuser likely took note in his mind every single time I voiced my anticipation to watch this show. He likely recognized this as an opportunity to create a new routine in which he would have multiple opportunities to act. And on August 16, 1999 when I was 8 ½ years old, my abuser enthusiastically invited me to his room to watch “Who wants to be a Millionaire.”

My abuser created a routine in which I was expected to “watch” this television show with him each time it aired, providing him with 30 minutes to an hour to abuse me. This “quality time” did not exist in any format prior to the airing of this show. Parents and caregivers, notice if anything like this takes place in your child’s life. If there is someone that spends little to no time with a child, then all of a sudden is playing video games with him or her every Saturday, or watching a television show every Friday evening, or practicing a sport with them every Tuesday, pay attention to any further signs of potential abuse. Or better yet, get involved in that routine as well! Learn to play video games every now and again, encourage watching the television show in a family room, attend as many practices and games as possible. Disrupt the routine every once in a while and notice any signs of disturbance at the disruption. The person creating the new routine does not have to be an adult either. It could be an older family member or neighbor.

This is not a tactic all abusers will use. And just because someone wants to play an active role in a child’s life, does not mean they are an abuser. This is just something to be aware of to hopefully prevent another child from being abused.

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