In our house we don’t keep secrets, just surprises. One of the most powerful weapons child abusers have is to get children to keep secrets. They often start with small secrets to see if the child keeps these and then the predator will slowly progress onto darker secrets after earning the families and child’s trust.
According to the NSPCC 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused. More than 8 out of 10 children who are sexually abused know their abuser as it could be a parent, relative, teacher, baby sitter, family friend, neighbour. Children being sexually abused by someone they don’t know is relatively rare although some abusers will seek out employment that brings them into contact with children.
A lot of sites talk about “good” secrets and “bad” secrets however this only serves to confuse a child, especially young children who you want to encourage to keep surprises but not secrets.
The blanket rule should be “No Secrets, Just Surprises”, this way there is a clear delineation between secrets and surprises and when someone asks the child to keep a secret the child can confidently tell the person that they don’t keep secrets. If the child is uncomfortable with a person asking them to keep secrets they should tell a trusted adult.
It’s still important that the child understands what type of surprises they can keep and these can be fun things such as presents, surprise parties, surprising someone with something nice, where the family are going on holiday, etc. If the child is asked to keep a surprise they are uncomfortable with they should be encouraged to tell a trusted adult.
Children need to be taught that their private parts are private to them and no one should ask to see or touch the private parts covered by underwear. If anyone asks to see or touch their private parts whether that is another child or adult they should say No and tell a trusted adult, normally a parent.
The NSPCC have a PANTS campaign which reiterates that Privates are private and that No Means No https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/underwear-rule/
Unfortunately, the PANTS literature talks about “Good” and “Bad” Secrets, however it’s a great program and has some guidance around talking to your children.
While criminal background checks are useful for child minders or baby sitters, the Internet can provide a platform for the child abuser to escalate their fantasies into reality. They can do this by talking to likeminded individuals and looking at pictures and videos of child abuse. Someone abusing a child for the first time may not have a criminal record and due to only 1 in 3 children reporting abuse, the abusers can get away with it for a long period of time.
The abuser will get the child to keep the abuse a secret because they will make the child afraid of being physically hurt, tell them that the family will break up or that they will get into trouble. They will often play on children’s fear, embarrassment or guilt about the abuse.
Make your household a place with No Secrets, Just Surprises !!!
The NSPCC has the following website that shows signs and symptoms of child abuse