Lots of bad things happen when we don’t think or when we’re worried we might hurt someone’s feelings. Planning ahead, being bold and learning to act on your intuition can save lifetimes of pain.
Years ago when I first started raising chickens I lost an entire flock after 20 weeks to a band of hungry raccoons. After killing them and posting their skins on the barn as a warning, I buttoned up my chicken pen with barbed wire so tight I dared anything to try that again. But after raising a new flock I nearly lost them all to an ever worse band of Austrian Roof rats. They were inside the barn and protected behind the barbed wire. I learned I needed to protect my little egg-laying beauties from without and within. This is what we all must do with our children when it comes to sexual abuse.
I’m not advocating paranoia and constant worry, that’s no way to live the good life. What I am saying is pretending the threat is not there is foolish.
First, I’d recommend you read a book about this issue. As you might imagine, you won’t like it. It won’t be as fun as practicing killing bad guys at the shooting range or buying a new gun, but it can prove just as effective. What you learn may send you into a tailspin if you are not careful, but not knowing is fraught with much worse danger.
Second I’d recommend getting to know the most discerning people in your family and congregation and learning to trust what they tell you. And then I’d start learning better what it means to listen to the warnings your own senses send you.
When a new family arrives in your church or anywhere in your life, keep your eyes open and ask people you trust what they think about the newcomers.
Don’t dismiss those gut feelings you may have by feeling guilty you question whether or not someone may be a threat. In the same way the liberal media doesn’t want you to racial profile, you might find your own sense of decency telling you that you should “never think that” about someone else. Not true. Although there are those instances where people are totally shocked to learn someone is a pedophile, in many cases people say they knew something wasn’t right from the start but felt bad even thinking the thoughts about them.
Trusting your heart here doesn’t mean accusing or mistreating others. It means watch this person closely, they may or may not be a threat but something inside me is telling me they might be.
Make some safety rules about your children spending time overnight with others. Only send them in pairs if they have to go, but maybe deciding to not allow sleepovers at all. Growing up, some of the best and worst times with friends was when I stayed all night. Many very bad things can be avoided by simply saying, “we’ll stay late and stay up having as much fun as you like, but when we go home we all go.” You might feel like a kill-joy but there are worse things.
Don’t be blind to the signs of abuse.
Most children who are sexually misused never say a word about it. They have either been conditioned to think the behavior was their idea in the first place or that if someone finds out about it, bad things will happen to them. They may also be manipulated by worry about destroying the abuser’s life and family. Those who do speak up are often treated with suspicion. Try hard never to make this mistake.
Most children act out in particular ways and you will see them if you’re paying close attention. Sometimes parents see these things and wonder if there is something wrong with their children or even discipline them for doing them without trying to understand why. This is not wise.
This can lead to the child feeling they are bad and this is why these things have happened to them. This often starts a cycle of self-destruction they never recover from.
So very much more needs to be said that can’t be said here, so I will appeal to you again, find a good book on this subject and better prepare your home to defend against this threat from without and within.