Did you know that children are at increased risk of being sexually abused during the holidays? I didn’t know that the actual statistics supported it but I sensed it to be true.
After all, most abuse of children occurs by family members. I also know that kids are home from school, stress is running high, more family members are around, there is more drinking, etc.
For me, the holidays often felt lonely. Not Christmas – for some reason my father was uncommonly kind and generous on Christmas Day – but nearly every other holiday felt fraught and scary…out of control.
I’ve read that people are more reluctant to report cases of child abuse during the holidays because they do not want to “rob the joy” from the season. It’s interesting because this is just an amped up continuation of all the regular reasons people don’t like reporting child abuse.
So what can we do?
Always talk with our children to help prevent sexual abuse, including conversations about saying no and their own personal space and boundaries. Let a child know that it is never okay for anyone to touch them without their permission. This includes signs of affections like a kiss or hug, and tell them should the situation ever occur, to immediately tell you or another adult if anyone crossed those boundaries.
Another good way to prevent abuse is to limit the time a child spends with anyone who you do not completely trust. You can also install cameras in your own home to increase visibility and let everyone know there is no zone where secret activities could occur. Sexual abuse mainly happens between a child and an adult within the household, about 80% of the time. But the almost all other sexual abuse cases occur with other youth as well. Limiting alone time includes everyone, young and old, even if that person is close and beloved. Check on all unattended kids of all ages frequently and randomly.
Another huge and important factor is drinking. Holidays with children are not a time to get drunk or even tipsy. Not only for issues of sexual abuse and oversight but of safety as well. Having children around means making safe choices and sometimes even sacrifices for the greater good.
Stay safe out there and keep our babies safe!