Update: I published this during the summer months (2015).
It spread across quite a few websites and I got a great deal of positive feedback.
However, some parents & caretakers commented indirectly that certain portions of the post were unclear.
I couldn’t let that stand.
The purpose of the post was to inform. If y’all didn’t feel fully informed then I haven’t done my job.
So I tweaked the post.
Made it more clear.
I hope it answers your questions. If it doesn’t, please contact me. If you have a question, it is likely that someone else does too.
How do good parents miss child sexual abuse?
It is simple.
By not asking the right questions.
One day my son went to a classmate’s home for a Halloween costume party. When I picked him up a few hours later I could tell by the ear to ear grin on his face that he had a great time.
As we were about to leave, I was standing at the door with his little friend’s father and grandmother.
Both adults were giving me a great report about my son’s behavior. I was a relieved parent. Thank goodness. No issues.
I quickly scooted my happy kid in the car and drove home.
But as I drove us home, I felt uneasy. Something was off.
Then it hit me.
I swerved into the next parking lot. No signal. I got a well-deserved honk from the driver behind me.
But I was distracted. I had been here before. Except I was the child then.
Back in the day
I could recall that when I was a little girl being abused by a teen relative, my mother would innocently ask me a few questions as we left a relative’s home.
“Did you behave?”
“Did you listen?”
“Were you a good girl?”
What mom didn’t know is that the teen who was living there had threatened me before she had even arrived. Sometimes he’d even be standing behind her balling up his fists or giving me mean looks.
Asking me those questions, especially in front of a person who was using me for sexual experimentation reinforced in my young mind that I was supposed to do whatever I was told by the person who was watching me while she was gone.
Because I had said, “yes” at the door, I didn’t think that I could change my answer later. To do so would mean that I would have to explain why I “lied” when she asked me earlier.
When parents ask children, whether they were good in front of children and adults, most children feel pressured to say yes.
So in that parking lot I turned around and looked at my son in his eyes.
I started all over again.
I asked the correct questions.
Perhaps you may want to consider asking these questions the next time that your child is in someone else’s care.
How did you spend your time?
What was your favorite part of the party?
What was the least favorite part?
Did you feel safe?
Was there anything else that you wanted to share?
Try to remember to make these questions a consistent habit.
It might be helpful to remind your children that they can always add details about what occurred while they were away from you.
My mistake that day was a common one for parents. We think that as long as we ask any question we are on top of things.
The truth is, parents must always question, at the right time, under the right circumstances.