Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What can we, as parents and caregivers, do?

The best thing we can do as parents or caregivers to keep our kids safe from predators, as ugly as it might seem, is acknowledge these three unpleasant truths:

1.      You do not get to choose who a predator targets; it is the predator who chooses who they target.

2.      The first person who experiences any evidence or sees any indication that a child is becoming the target of a predator is the child themselves.

3.      Every child will be “assessed” or “scoped” by a predator at some stage.


These are massive statements, so let me be very clear what we know as fact about the above statements.


We know, to protect our children, it’s vitally important that we understand these elements. But as illustrated by a parent talking to me recently - who has been discussing this very issue with other parents - she candidly shared with me that about half of the parents she had talked to about this issue shut her down straight away and made it clear that they didn’t want to talk about it. The other half were open to talk about it. It spooks me that we all aren’t open to talk about it. I feel it’s an important step in building the defence of our kids.


We know that not talking about a problem and taking steps to stop a problem are two different things.


So let’s reword these 3 initial statements to add clarity.


The first, though it needs no further explanation, is not something we tend to think about – we are good caregivers and we are alert and keep out senses honed for all dangers to our kids. We make sure that they are safe all the time. Gosh, we don’t even start driving the car until all the seatbelts are on. And that’s good and safe.


But this is different. This is not about how safe we are being, this is about something we don’t have direct control over. We have control over how safely we drive, we don’t have control over how safely others drive. We’d choose our children not to be targeted by predators, but it’s not our choice. So when a parent thinks or expresses “stuff like this happens to other kids” – I wonder: Are you saying that as a parent or a predator? Because as a parent, that statement is worthless and dangerous at best.


Which leads into the second point: As much as we want to protect our kids, this danger of a predator has the added disadvantage to us of not being able to see the danger at all - as it is purposely being hidden. Why would the predator risk raising any alarm? You know they don’t and won’t, so there’s nothing – no act nor clue that would be in your presence, so obviously it is the child who first experiences what will likely be some grooming or vetting questions or manipulative ploys or lures.


Because we don’t know who the predators are until they are caught (and they are only caught after they do something – how much does that suck!) then they are free in our society until then. Some are caught early, some are caught late – meaning perhaps after years and after they have assaulted and abused many many kids.


Your kids won’t by chance find stumble across a predator; no, it is the predator looking for our kids. They will put themselves in positions where they will meet many kids and they will be assessing and vetting all who come in contact with them.


Ok, I know things sound bleak and negative, but the world we live in has not changed since you started reading this blog. It’s exactly the same. And the predators that existed at the start of this blog exist now. It’s that we might be more aware of a horrible issue and some truths that live in that issue that we’d prefer not to know.


So let’s talk solutions now. You understand this: What has been discussed above are elements of privacy: The predator needs two things; they need privacy, and they need control. They will establish privacy – you know this; you know that they will assess, choose and approach our kids under the cloak of privacy. Privacy is something that the predator has direct influence over – and we’ve discussed the elements of privacy. But not Control.


Control is where we can wage our defence – making sure that the control stays with the child – that they understand and appreciate and know that they can defend their absolute and sovereign right to decide what they want to do. To decide what’s wrong and what’s right and unwaveringly express and stick to their decision – and they can unleash whatever they want if they feel that they need to. This means that they are what we call a “hard target”. They are not impossible to control, but most importantly, they are now too difficult and too risky to control for the predator.


Teaching our kids about what we in Protect define as Control - the decision a child owns and what they can do to enforce them - decreases the balance of probability our kids are even targeted.


We teach our kids because it’s the repercussions that are unthinkable – but this strategy can’t be done if it’s chosen that; the risk itself, that the existence of predators and that it is our kids that might be targeted, is unthinkable.




Darcy Mellsop

Protect Self Defence NZ