I'd originally posted this back in November of 2011. I've never forgotten the terrifying statistics quoted below, but had forgotten that I even had this post until yesterday, when the topic of inappropriate hugging with our kids came up on Confessions of the Chromosomally Enhanced. As a follow-up, let me just say that in the past 2 years Samantha has come a long way with the hugging issue. I documented a major breakthrough in this post from a little over a year ago. In the meantime, I have now realized that there are so many more parents of young ones with Down syndrome out there who read this blog since I last posted this, that it's information that really, really needs to be out there. Please share this and help to reduce these horrifying numbers by arming ourselves and our children with knowledge needed to stay safe from predators.
November 28, 2011
Tammy, at Praying for Parker, posted some very startling and unsettling statistics on her blog last week. I've heard similar stats before, but have probably been in denial ever since.
But denial won't make the problem disappear.
((deep breath)) Okay, here goes: estimates show that 90% of females and 50% of males with intellectual disabilities will be sexually abused.
Now, if I can get my heart to stop pounding and my brain to stop spinning long enough to continue, I'll give you some excellent ways to build awareness and help prevent this awful, awful thing from happening to your child.
Tammy found the following list posted in a group she's a part of. I don't know who the author is, but I send them a heartfelt thank you for posting this. It's difficult to read, but so, so necessary. Please take the time to educate your spouses and your children about this, and don't let your child become a statistic.
1. Start early. Introduce correct terms for body parts. This way a they can report clearly if someone engages in sexual misbehavior.
2. Introduce body privacy. NO ONE is allowed to tickle or play around with the private parts of your body. To counter any attempts at or*l s*x include the mouth as a private body part. NO ONE is allowed to put anything part of their body into your mouth.
3. Make it clear that if someone breaks the rules about body privacy, YOU (the parent) need to know about it.
4. Teach your child to stand back and hold out their arms and say – in a BIG LOUD – voice and say, “NO! STOP THAT!” “IT’S NOT ALLOWED!” Practice saying NO! assertively.
5. Practice distinguishing secrets to keep and secrets that must be told. Children and adults with intellectual disabilities often think they can tell good secrets but have to keep bad secrets cause telling a bad secret might make someone feel bad.
6. As sex abuse is about power, work to empower your child with independence in dressing and toileting.
7. Develop and practice problem solving skills. Role play different situations and how your child should react in them.
8. Bear in mind that if your child lacks physical affection, approval and attention, they become more vulnerable to predators.
9. Develop social skills. Personal space. Eye to eye contact. Make sure your child knows their phone number and address.
10. Often children with special have already developed a passivity to adults, especially to caregivers and other professionals. Teach your child it is okay to stand up for themselves.
11. With non-verbal children consult a speech therapist for communication symbols for sexuality.
Samantha is a very affectionate child, which is a really wonderful thing. BUT...while she has gotten better about it, she does still like to hug random people. It's so hard, as a parent, to know how to teach your child to distinguish between the people it's okay to hug, and the ones it isn't okay to hug. Or to tell I love you. We really have to work more on teaching her boundaries. And, piggybacking on yesterday's post, teaching her Stranger Danger and how to fear and stand up for herself in certain situations.
Please re-post this, and share it with your special needs community. Armed with this information we can help to reduce the number of incidents, and protect our kids.