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I always think it's interesting that the child molestation cases that make it into the news usually involve strangers or the most heinous acts. Meanwhile, most child molestors are family friends or relatives who have easy access to children, and the trust of the adults among them. YOu can't get away with this type of act without having both opportunity and the trust of adults. (Guess that's why so many adults are now coming forward to speak of what their family priest had done to them in the past. Who'd seem more trustworthy than a priest???)

I probably only have assvice on this subject, because I'm not really sure what are the very best ways to keep our children safe. But I do know that many of stories I've heard involve people who as little girls were left alone with uncles and cousins, or who were sent to corner store trips alone with them. Nobody wants to suspect a brother or B-I-L of being the type who would take advantage of their 9 year old daughter on the way to the candy store. But we have already decided that our daughter won't be left alone with her only male cousin. You just don't know what's going on in people's minds at various times in their lives. They can present a "front" of stability and normalicy, and yet quietly be losing their minds.

....Oh. And let's not forget the more recent rash of beautiful, blonde teachers, with husbands, children and big American houses, molesting male children in our schools. These women appear to have it all, so what in the world is THAT all about???

I wasn't abused, but Oprah has made me into a paraniog maniac with all the abuse stories she's covered.
The bottom line, what I've taken from all these stories is- don't trust anyone too much. Most abuse is done by people we know, because they're the ones with access to our kids.
I will never, ever leave my daughter with a man besides her father or mine until I feel she's old enough to protect herself and to verbalize to me what has happened. If that's not until she's 16- so be it. Other kids can sleep over my house instead of her going there. It's not worth the risk.
It's not a stranger with a puppy that I'm worried about- it's people who have consistent access to her. I'll not trust any of them. I feel that's the best way to protect her, and if I'm wrong, the worst that could happen is she grew up a little sheltered.

The best advice I can give is for you to empower them to stand up for themselves and not just "keep quiet until it's over". They need to know that it's okay to tell an adult (or someone younger) to "Stop" and they won't get in trouble. An open line of communication between you and your children is important so they'll never feel embarrassed about telling you something in regards to their bodies.

When they get older and have been given the "stranger talk" give them a little quiz afterward.... ask them to describe to you what a stranger looks like. Most likely, the description will be frightening, yet eye opening for you. When I asked my oldest that question, he painted me a mental picture of a man wearing a Dick Tracy-type hat, a trench coat, sunglasses and who hides around corners. Holy shit, was I surprised. After that we sat together on the front steps talking about people that walked by. I'd ask him if each person was a stranger and his usual response was "No, because they look nice." It took a while for him to get it, but without badgering him I slowly taught him what I felt he needed to know at his age (he was 5, I think).

This is one of the crappier parts of parenting.

.....and more assvice: Don't introduce your children to your boy friends or give them a step-father. I KNOW a lot of people won't like my opinion...but if I hear one more story about how Mommy's boyfriend or my step-father blah blah blah...I think I'm gonna scream. It seems like pedophiles LOOK for single women with children. I'd rather keep my legs closed for 20 years than expose my precious daughter to "Mommy's new boyfriend."

The one person I know who was systematically sexually abused as a child chalks up his victim status not only to being in the wrong place at the wrong time and around depraved and terrible people, but also the fact that he was particularly vulnerable due to his family situation. His mother, he says, was emotionally "absent," and he was on the lookout, subconsciously of course, for "special attention," even if it meant abuse from a friend's dad or a teacher.

I guess my brother also told me about a friend of our parents' son, who was still a minor, but a teenager, who fondled my then-elementary-school-aged brother. My brother hated the guy for doing it, and also seemed to blame our parents for leaving him alone with the guy.

As a mother, I figure that molestation, along with everything else I cannot control, might happen to my kids. I don't mean to sound cavalier; it would be devastating to me, to know they had been hurt in any way at all, and especially in that way. But living life unable to trust anyone, anywhere just because they might have sexual designs on my children would be miserable for me AND my kids.

I trust my gut. The other day Nico, my 4-year-old son, and I stopped at a public park with a pond where a couple of men were operating a radio-controlled boat. The one guy got a bit friendly with Nico, showing him how to work the controls, and Nico was thrilled. The man had my boy wedged firmly between his knees, and seemed to relish the close, physical contact. I knew immediately that this man was dangerous to my son, but I didn't want to spoil a good time, as long as I was there, two feet away, and there was no genital contact. As soon as we were in the car, though, I had one of those big old wiggly fits of disgust, and relief that my son had not been alone there.

Apart from the extremely bad luck of having a husband who is a pedophile (in which case you are bound to end up with kids who are molested, and you won't know about it until far after the fact), or a teacher in the classroom or a coach who is an abuser, the main thing, it seems, to avoid with little ones is "desperation baby-sitting," where you leave a kid or kids in the care of someone unproven and inappropriate, like a neighbour or the son of a friend.

Kids can be taught that their bodies are private, blah blah blah, and I'm sure that helps. "Good touch, bad touch," all that. But in the end, some kids will be very unlucky. I guess then the main thing is to find out and help, and making sure kids always know that whatever they do, and whatever happens, they are always loved, may increase the chances that we as parents will know soon enough to get the kid some help, and get the freak who touched them into prison.

I know, I know, get your own blog. I tried that. It didn't work. Sorry for the blather.

I wasn't one of the responders to your abuse post, but I'll throw in my 2 cents here. It can't rule your life, but trust no one. Really. If you see anyone acting in any way that makes you the least bit uncomfortable around your child, do something. Question people, prevent your child from being alone with them. Talk to your child. As someone else mentioned, often the abuser is someone you AND your child know and trust. Make sure your child knows what is and isn't appropriate behavior from ANYONE, even from you. If you find out it has happened, god forbid, TALK about it. Don't make it a secret. My brothers to this day have no idea what happened to me, and it was only discussed with my parents once until I was an adult. I've never had a conversation with the abuser about it. I've avoided as much contact as possible (but being a close family member, I have spent time around him) and I have been incredibly uncomfortable (and vigilant) when my brothers children were around him. My brother didn't know to worry, so I had to right? The anger I carry around is something only my husband and mother know about (and a close friend or two).

Assvice for sure, but born out of experience and concern for others.

You should not use the word "stranger" when talking to your kids about strangers. Like Dani said above, most kids picture strangers as creepy bad guys, not the friendly pedophile down the street. You should instead have them know not to talk to people you don't know.

Of course with most abuse and molestations occuring by those we do know, this may not be all that effective. I think by doing your best to form the type of relationship with your children where they know they can come to you with anything, no matter how bad, you will be there for them and still love them and do what you can to help them. This turns out to be very helpful in the teenage years when they may be torn between riding home from a party with a drunk friend so you don't find out they were there or calling you for a ride so they don't put themselves in danger (and other such situations).

Of course we can't protect our children all of the time like we want. And sometimes that sucks.

I am like you, Tertia. I WANT to believe that people are good and that noone would do that to a child but I read the news and I know that it does happen. I know too many people that it has happened to, all of them by people close to their family. The fact is that people are sick and it's frightening what they are capable of doing.

My four-year old once had a cut on her labia and so I took her to the doctor, worried that it might be infected or something. When he brought up sexual abuse as a possible cause, I almost fell over. It hadn't even occurred to me that sexual abuse was a possibility. Honestly, I was not worried. There are cameras in all the rooms at their daycare, teachers never go into the bathrooms with kids and since it's run by the gov't the regulations are very strict. However, my daughter is terribly active and I'm sure she just fell on something that gave her a little cut. Still, the doctor made me tell the daycare about it and bring up the subject of sexual abuse. It was awful and embarrassing for me and them.

I think the only thing you can do for your kids is to encourage comfort and communication, especially about their bodies and sex. I know when I was growing up, I lived on a dead-end road that housed several released and registered sex offenders. My neighbor empregnated his 12-year old daughter, who was in my class at school. Sick sick stuff. The only thing that kept us safe was talking about it. My parents talked about sex from the time I was very young. They made it a comfortable topic not a taboo one. It was important that I understand the difference between good and wrong sexual contact. It was something I knew a lot about. They didn't censur things that had to do with sex. In fact, when I was eight, my dad asked me if he had ever told me about his worst sexual experience. When I said no, he said, "It was wonderful." That's what I grew up with and as such, I knew what was comfortable and what was not. I knew where my line was and wasn't afraid to say so or get myself out of an uncomfortable situation.

I think that is the key. Teach them what is okay and what is not. Don't make sex taboo, embrace it in its natural form, and educate your children on what is appropriate and what is not. I wouldn't leave them alone with anyone that you feel the slightest uncomfortable with. Trust your gut feeling.

I constantly worry about this stuff, too.

It is critical to teach your children at an early age that they own their bodies and that if anyone touches them in ways they are not comfortable with to tell Mommy or Daddy. Also, avoid using the word 'secret' and tell them that you can ALWAYS tell Mommy and Daddy anything, even if someone says bad things will happen if you do. A pedophile's best trick is to convince the victim that if they tell, he (or less likely, she) will kill the family. You have to convince your kids early in life not to believe this sort of thing. I always just told my kids they could tell me anything and it was okay no matter what anyone else told them.

I disagree with the 'don't trust anyone' stuff. Be wary, make sure you have at least met someone before you entrust your children to them* but going around life with a deep sense of distrust is kind of isolating. Better to hone your intuition and assess a person's trustworthiness on a person by person basis. Besides, your kids will end up over at the homes of people you only know marginally and you don't want to drive yourself bonkers with worry. You need to believe that your kids will tell you if someone tries to fondle them.

*this may sound ridiculous but when your kids go to school their friends invite them over and it isn't always that easy to pre-screen your kid's friends parents.

Everyone has given v. good advice...But Dani's struck me the most... My sister was sexually abused when we were children, she was always the v. shy child and I was the precocious one. So when the creepo friend of my grandfather would come around she'd freeze up...and I'd run. I didn't know honestly what was going on but that he was super creepy.

Teach your kids to speak their mind...its annoying and nerve wracking (I drove my mom NUTS with my mouthy self)...but it could potentially save them from abuse. Also, keep watch of those around & in positions of confidence of your children, I know that sounds paranoid but those are the ones that attack most often - family and leaders.

Its so sad that we live in such a sick world. My sister is emotionally unstable and damaged from the events that occurred off and on throughout our childhood. I never realized something was up until we were in our early teens...but she scared me (she was a bully) and threatened me to never tell.

I think when she was 21 she finally told my mother about 1/2 of the story. My sister has told me the entirity but we could never tell our mother the whole.

I grew up in a home full of love and tender upbringing so you never know who or when. I think you're a divine mom so you'll protect your little pride with your own life. In my eyes, you're doing the best you can do now...Rose is a godsend like you said...and you and Marko are ravenously in love with your children. I know I rambled but I hope it helped in some way.
~Hugs~

I thought I had done a decent job in the area of teaching my children about "bad touching". One area I DIDN'T think I needed to caution them in was "bad touching" in the bathroom by classmates at the age of 8 ! The night one of my sons said he didn't want to school, and if he had to could we please ask "John" to leave him alone - well, my husband and I just sat there, our skin crawling, horrified. You READ about this - not experience it !~ And NOT from a 3rd grader for God's sake! And as they were so young we still don't think either child viewed it as sexual.
My son came thru it just fine. The saddest thing was the sure knowledge that SOMEONE was messing with young "John". No 8 year old has that awareness unless they themselves have been exposed to it. At least his actions towards my son led to an investigation. And guess what? Faith hit it on the mark. Predators often DO look for single women with young children - male and female. It was stepdaddy.
I wish someone would market a huge plastic bubble with a key usable only when the child hits 21.I'ld buy 5 of them myself - in a heartbeat.

Time out Chris! Sexual exploration by young children is normal. I had a mother call me and just come unglued because my son did a 'show me yours and I'll show you mine' with her son. I don't think he actually touched this other kid but he wanted to have a penis show and tell. She told me that at the age of 7 my son sounded like "he knew what he wanted and he know how to get it". I can't tell you how disgusted I was with her (she was married to a wife beater, by the way).

Little boys love their penises and that does not make them pedophiles. They are curious about other boys. I told the Mom that I would discuss keeping your private parts private with my son and I did and that was that. He never bothered anyone again.

I'm sorry if your son's school mate actually grabbed him but as you note, he came through it okay because it was one kid to antoher, not a sexually active adult looking for a thrill.

Please Mothers, don't confuse childish sexual curiosity with pedophila. They are not the same thing.

Sorry for v long response...

After being fondled, raped, and otherwise tortured for years by the two teenaged sons (16 and 18yo) of a family friend (which was my after-school care from the ages of 5 to 7), and not having told anyone until I was out of high school, I have to say I have a certain resentment that no one noticed what a fucking lunatic child I became. I look at photos of myself at age 6 and I have a decidedly haunted look on my face, an air of total despondance, a very un-childlike quality.

I changed dramatically when that was happening to me: went from a skinny, fun kid to a fat, quiet kid with very morbid reading habits in no time. Began wetting the bed. I feel that perhaps the adults in my life missed the boat when I had such a dramatic personality and phsysical upheaval at such a young age --it's like I went through puberty as a 6 year old, with all that self-conscious body-image crap and withdrawing from people. I became obsessed with the Holocaust, read book after book about floods and famines and volcanic eruptions where whole cities were destroyed... Just... Morbid, unable to stop thinking dark thoughts. And no one picked up on it.

So that's something to look for AFTER the fact. I think children send signals, even if they're unable to TELL anyone about what they are going through. I believe that children have such a sharp sense of shame that it's easy for predators to make them believe they are to blame, at least in part, and to assure silence. But kids "tell" in other ways than words.

In terms of prevention, well that's the million dollar question. I would not trust my child alone with any male over the age of 10. Horrible? Maybe, but I know what boys and men are capable of. Watch your children very carefully for signs of aversion -- kids are pretty good at picking out the weirdos and will stay away given the chance. Notice people who notice your children, really examine their behavior.

What I wish my parents had done, had they noticed something amiss? Defend me. How I wish someone had just knocked those two young men senseless on my behalf. How I wish someone had been BIGGER than they were, and made them AFRAID, and made them WHIMPER with that fear. I wish someone had been ANGRY for me, and towered over those maniacs in indignation and rage that they had dared to inflict themselves on me.

But no one in my family caught on: this was before Oprah, before people talked about child abuse/rape and understood it to happen ALL THE TIME. And because my family didn't really understand that it could happen, they didn't guess, and no one ever confronted those criminals. And although I know that they are now both in jail for other crimes, I wish someone had held them down and made them cry. Well, they're in prison, so they probably do know what rape feels like by now. That's some consolation.

Tertia, just love your babes and let them know that you will fight for them. Let them know you are ferocious in your love and protection, and you will take on the battles they are too young to fight themselves. You cannot keep them safe everywhere, all the time, but you can let them know that they are sacred little beings who will be loved and fought for.

That's what I'll try to do for this little boy kicking inside me when he's out in the world.

And people do come through it. I'm as happy and feel as lucky as anyone I know. I have made my life a beautiful, positive thing. I am full of joy and self-confidence. Dare I say it? I, too, am G & D.

Hi Tertia,

I've discovered your blog already some time ago (and reading it daily since then), but have not yet commented. But this topic is very important to me. And you are right, it is shocking how many children have to experience this.

I was molested by an old man when I was 10 or so. Actually, I don't really remember how old I was, only that I had absolutely no clue what was going on. He and his wife were friends of my grandma, she had known them pretty much all her life. I visited them often, because they had a dog I liked to play with. And one day, he started trying to be alone with me and touching me. It was "light" molestation as it goes and when he tried to do the same the next time, I just stopped going there.

However, even though I have a really good relationship to my mom and grandmom, I never told them. I don't really know why I didn't. I was not afraid to tell them, I guess it was more that I didn't want to worry them - and strangely enough, I still liked the "uncle" and wanted to protect him.

So what would I do different with my daughter? I had gotten the "stranger" talk as a kid, but no one warned me of non-strangers. But I also do not want her to grow up trusting no one. I think Aurora is right - make sure your kids understand what is going on if something tries to touch them that way, and make sure they know its okay to say "no".

I've made a rule and discussed it with my family that the ONLY people to babysit my daughter will be my Mother and Father. Unfortunately it's often a family member who does the abusing. And I'd rather be safe than sorry. My parents are awesome and I trust them completely.

If they can't do it, then I don't go out. I still don't know how I'll handle sleepovers and camp trips and whatnot, but my daughter is only a year old so that's in the future and something I'll have to think about.

The only thing my parents did that caused my abuse was being trustworthy. I suppose that's the downside of being a nice person and opening your hearts to a family member married into the family. Me? Not so nice.

My abuser has long been out of the picture, and out of the family. Thank god. My entire family was incredibly supportive of me when I told them, and the endless years of depression I suffered was not easy on them, but we all pulled through together.

Because of my abuse I don't think I'll ever get married. I don't think I'll ever trust someone to be around my daughter. She is the most important person in my life, not a boyfriend. Not a husband.

i wish my mum hadn't sent me to stay with my paedophile father

Mostly I just wish my mother had seen a therapist when she needed to. Her depression and rages affected all of us.

Have a secret word. Teach it to your children. They are not allowed to get in a car with anyone that isn't their parent unless the other person knows the secret word. Even if they know the person or the person tells them that they are taking your children to see you.

Teach them about uh-oh feelings. An uh-oh feeling is when they know something is wrong even if they don't know what it is or why. Tell them to tell you whenever they have an uh-oh feeling. It helps them learn to pay attention to their instincts and learn to communicate their feelings even if they don't understand them completely.

And finally, make sure your children know that you love them no matter what. I know this seems like a simple thing. But I think many children who don't tell don't because they are afraid that it is their fault and mom and dad will be mad at them or disappointed in them. And it's easy for a well intentioned parent to still stir up these fears in their children. My parents were very loving. But any of the praise and attention I got was for only for doing something well. My mom would go on about how smart I was, etc. Which meant that I was always trying to please them and always worried about disappointing them. Children need to know that they are loved just for who they are not what they can do.

I was not a victim but I do feel like I am hyperaware, hyperprotective. I do not think this will 100% protect them but I can only do what I can do. My belief is that no matter how much to talk to children (we do), teach them (we do) or even scare them (we try not to), children are trusting. They JUST are. Its not something you can change with the most fear inducing stories or by talking 24/7, and who really wants to change that? So I don't leave them with anyone. I DID freak out when my daughter started preschool, even though the teacher was a female family friend. I DO ask about background checks on teachers, aides, parent helpers, student teachers, etc. If I don't like what I hear, my kids aren't involved and I take the comments about being overprotective and a pain in the ass. I don't care. No one will ever say I didn't do everything I possibly could to protect them.

I'm no expert, and just last night after seeing not 1, 2 or 3 stories about sexual abuse in the same newscast but FIVE!! I said to my husband "how I talk to her about this when the time is right without scaring the hell out of her?"

I haven't read all the other comments but wanted to submit a few.

-Pay attention to changes in your children. Eating, sleeping, bedwetting, etc can be signs that something is wrong.

-Don't just focus on "stranger danger." Unfortunately, abuse comes most often from someone they know - a grandparent, uncle, cousin, teacher, friend's father, coach, etc.

-Talk to them about icky sorts of feelings - if something doesn't feel right, even if they aren't sure why.

-Listen, listen, listen. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.

-Teach them ownership of their bodies. This is YOUR body and you don't have to let anyone else touch you in a way you don't like. This is your ___ (don't want google searches coming up weird) and only for you to touch.

-Keep an eye out for "grooming" type behaviors. Pedophiles often groom their victims by providing lavish gifts, gradually increasing physical contact, etc etc. That nice neighbor down the street may really just be into hearing your child talk about hot wheels, and then again... If your youngster suddenly has a friendship with an adult, it doesn't always mean there's a problem, but you might consider a rule that the kiddo has to always be within your eyesight. There was a little girl in our neighborhood that liked to come down and talk with me...and her parents didn't even want to meet me when I suggested it. I'm safe, but they couldn't have known that. They couldn't have known my husband was a stand-up guy. So, it was MY idea that when she stopped by, she read me stories on the front porch or if she came inside I called her parents, made sure it was ok, and asked them to walk her back home or I would when it was time for her to go.

-If there is a molester in the family, EVERYONE with children should know about it. No excuses, no "I don't want to rock the boat." And, those children should never under any circumstances be left alone with the molester. They don't change.

I think that so often, the focus is on strangers (stranger=danger!, never talk to strangers! etc...) when, as many other commenters noted, it's generally someone who knows the child. For me, between the ages of 4-7, it was my grandfather.

I never said anything to anyone, partly because I didn't want anyone to get mad and partly because I wasn't sure I'd be believed. However, my mother never liked him (it was my dad's dad) and tried as best she could to not leave us with him. She had nothing other than an instinct that he was creepy, but her instinct was right. Of course, the problem was that without having any proof, you can't generally just say to the grandparents "No, you can't see the kids because you're creepy." I don't blame them for what happened, but to this day I haven't said a word about it to them. I figure there's no use burdening them with that level of guilt.

He died several years ago, but apparently not before he molested my younger cousin as well. If I'd spoken up when it happened to me, it would have prevented anything ever happening to her. That's a regret I'll always carry.

I think the most important things are to trust your instincts, no matter what, and to teach your kids that they can tell you anything and you'll never get mad at them for telling the truth. I knew that what was happening to me was wrong, but I felt that my word would not be taken over his. Kids are taught so early that the word of an adult is much weightier than their own (and there is no avoiding this, I know) but your kids have to trust that you will always believe them. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions. I think if my parents had ever asked me directly about it, I would have told them the truth. Your instincts are there and you just have to learn to trust them.

Sorry for the anon, but I hope it's understood why...

I didn't reply to your abuse post either, but I am a survivor. What do I wish my mother had done differently? Damn near everything, really. But the most important things: 1. Be aware of your children. They are telling you, either in subtle clues or outright tales, what is happening with them. 2. Trust your instincts. That means with other people and with your kids. 3. Trust your kids. If by chance they should tell you something horrible is happening to them, BELIEVE them. My sister "told" on my step-father, but no one believed her because she was a story teller. By the time I had been molested for many years and was strong enough to tell someone (not my mother, btw), my sister had attempted suicide and was living away from us. 4. Value your kids. If something happens to your marriage and you feel you absolutely must remarry, make darn sure that you trust your new hubby with your fragile children. And that your children trust him as well. If there is any doubt, do not keep him around. Buy a vibrator if necessary, but don't keep him around!!!

The bottom line is that I am a survivor. I have the most awesome husband in the world and we have our almost 20 month old son for whom we had to fight very hard to conceive and bring to life (although that sounds sooo Frankenstein-ish - but you know what I mean). Mom has had 4 marriages - none at the moment. And in hindsight, she says she maybe thought something was amiss. Too bad she couldn't get her head out of her ass to do something about it.

Try not to smother your kids with your fears. I know I am super vigilant, but I keep my rose colored glasses on to see the world as a happy place.

And then sometimes, there is nothing to be done except heal the wounds.

Lots of good advice here. I think it's important also to have constant open communication with your kids. It's great to say they can tell you anything, but unless you are having real conversations about difficult things on a regular basis, they may not believe you. Also you have to MEAN it when you say you can tell me anything. Kids can pick up on body language. If you say you can tell me, but you really don't want to know, they won't tell you.

Luckily, I was never abused, but I'm sure it was lurking just around the corner once. In a hotel my parents and I were staying at, I broke a little vase. Nothing valuable, but of course - being a child - I was worried. Another guest had observed the incident, came up to me and told me he wouldn't tell my parents if I was "nice to him" in his room. I was 9 or 10 years old at the time.

What protected me were two things:

1. My parents had always truthfully answered all my questions about men, women, sex and the like from the beginning. They had also (unobtrusively) warned me that some people like to have sex with children. They told me I had a right to say "No" to anyone and anything that didn't feel right to me.

2. I grew up with complete trust in my parents. I just knew that whatever terrible thing I might have done, I could tell them. I knew that they might punish me if I deserved it, but I also knew that I could trust them more than anyone else in the whole wide world.

That's how I came to tell that other hotel guest that he was free to tell my parents, because I'd do that myself anyway. He never tried to even speak to me again...

I was sexually abused by my grandfather for 13 years. It had happened all my life, so by the time I realized it was wrong, it had been going on for so long that I didn't know what to do. He made threats on me constantly. The only reason I ever told was because I suspected it had happened to my sister. Turns out it happened to almost everyone in my family.

Just be careful who you leave your kids around. Don't assume that because your child is a boy he is safe with another male. My brother was the worst abused of all of us. Make sexual abuse a topic that is not shameful in your family. Make is something that is discussed in age appropriate ways.

The best advice I can give is dealing with the aftermath of abuse. Always always believe your children. Always report the person to the authorities. If someone had done that when the first reports of abuse surfaced, I would have been ok. Even if it is a family member, don't brush it under the carpet. It means a lot to me that my abuser was put in jail (Only for a few years, but still). Get your children counseling. Don't pretend it didn't happen. And most importantly, realize that the effects of abuse never go away. I am impacted by my abuse in many ways, some very subtle like certain smells and certain sounds. But it is always a part of me.

And lastly, if you know someone who has been abused, make sure they know that it wasn't their fault. One of the worst aspects of my abuse was that the local newspaper covered the story and so my classmates mocked me for days. That, by far, is one of the worst things in my life.

Sorry it doesn't answer the question very well Tertia. But I don't think anyone could tell I was abused. I don't know what my parents would of done differently. I don't know what I could of done either.

I've been lucky and had a really charmed life I guess and haven't had to deal with anything like this myself, other than on the other side as the doctor who looks for abuse. I did several months of med school and residency specifically working with child abuse experts hoping I'd pick up what I needed to know to not miss a case and to know how to document so well that the sub-humans who would do something like that to a kid would rot in jail. Every case I saw was family member, or mom's boyfriend or new husband. So although the news certainly makes it sound like there are tons of predators out there waiting to snatch up your kids, at least in America, it's misleading.

Two great books I recommend on just general personal saftey are by Gavin de Becker. His first is The Gift of Fear - nothing earth shattering, just validating that that little voice is there for a reason. But it was helpful to me to hear that, as well as the clues of what to watch for as a sign that someone is a "bad guy". His other book that sounds like it would be a good resource for you is "Protecting the Gift" which is about how to protect your children in today's world. Might be worth a perusal during all that newfound time when your kiddos are sleeping.

I am posting anonymously just because i have friends who read your blog as well. Of course you know who I am. My brother was molested repeatedly by our neighbor guy. He showed him all kinds of porn - animal stuff included...and did stuff to my brother that makes me sick to death.

His son was my brothers' friend; my bro went over to his house all the time to play there. There were NO and I repeat NO warning signs. It happened to other neighborhood boys too.

I think the saddest thing about abuse is that in alot of cases the abuse makes the child feel guilty, but it is sexual, so in a way it feels good. And that confuses the feelings so much more.

You can't have your children living in a plastic bubble, but on the same token, I think you have to tell them that there are bad people out there, who want to touch them in their privates, and NO one can do that except them, and if someone is helping them go to the bathroom, like mommy or daddy.

My parents never had this discussion with us.

It makes my skin crawl, the fucker. I am crying just writing it. FUCK YOU YOU BASTARD.

Sorry, that felt good to write.

My brother is 34 and still dealing with it.

One other thing. I have very strong suspicions that a close relative has sexually molested his children. He and his wife will never watch our children.

If I found out someone molested my child, I don't know what I would do. It would not be pretty. Sorry about the profanity in the last comment - it just makes me SO mad. You can delete the comment if you don't want so many f-words on your blog. :) Nothing ever happened to the guy that screwed my brother up. It is SO sick.

Ugh.

I will reiterate a bunch of the comments above. My abuser was a family friend, just down the street. He knew my grandfather really well, apparently, and my dad would go over and talk to him. My dad trusted him and even though my mom was a bit wary of my spending every day over at this guy's place, she trusted my dad.

I don't blame my dad, by the way. He thought I did for a very long time, and maybe he still does think I blame him despite my saying otherwise. I can't imagine how hard it must be for him.

At the same time, people knew something was wrong. My parents were frequently called in my my pre-school, kindergarden, and 1st grade because I was a typical "abused" child. I think my parents were accused of something (not sexual abuse, but just abusing me someohw) a few times. I was very little, but I think they were shocked and afriad that someone would accuse them of things like that. They didn't think to look around and see what might be the source of it. The schools were right, of course, so listen to other people's observations.

The other thing I will throw in here is that talking to your kids is also not necessarily the best way to know. I was deeply ashamed of what happened, and just very very uncomfortable talking about it. When my mom would bring it up after I came forward, I would say anything to just get her to stop talking about it. I would say "no, that didn't happen" just so she wouldn't ask me more about it. I am absolutely positive that if she had asked me DURING the abuse if something were happening, that I would have lied and said no. I'm not saying you shouldn't talk to the kids, but don't rely on their reporting to make you feel like everything is ok. If something seems wrong - if they start acting like something bad has happened - it probably has.

You are a great mom and you will do everything you can to protect them. Hopefully that will be all they need.

Hi,

The only advice I can give as a survivor of sexual abuse is to make yourself available to talk about it. If it was not for my Mom who was there to talk with me, and didn't judge me or make me feel embarrassed or ashamed about what happened. A friend of mine was abused by her grand-father and once told her mother. Her mother said ok, and never left her alone there anymore, but that's it. She has never mentioned it again, or took her to get help or even said that it was not her fault.

So, anyway, that is my only advice, be open to talking and getting help if needed.

By the way, I read your blog everyday and I think you are doing a great job with your kids.

My heart and soul cries out at the fact that so many of us have been hurt, and so many of us by family members. Fuck.

All of the ladies have excellent advice. Unfortunately, if it's your husband that's doing the abusing, it's a little harder to implement most suggestions.

There were a couple of specific warning signs/incidents that my Mother realized after the fact. 7 years of abuse and she only picks up on 2 things. Fucking idiot woman, and evil fucking man, he hid it so well.

1. From the time I was 9 or so, my father was very against me having male friends, spending time with boys my age, etc. We now know why, because he wanted to keep me for himself.

2. Later on, when I was about 16, A neighbor saw my father watching me thru my bedroom window one night (he did it alot, but was only caught by the neighbor once) and notified my mother. My mother mistakenly assumed he was watching to make sure I was not going to sneak out that night, since I had a habit of doing so.

I finally told on my father when I was almost 17. My mother did not believe me, till she heard it from my father himself. To this day I am heartbroken about it, if he had not confessed I may not be here right now. I would have rather died on the spot than know that my mother did not believe me, and let him get away with it. If I can say one thing, it is this:

Please believe your children if they tell you someone hurt them. Just listen and believe them, it will help more than you know.

I guess I'll email or blog the rest...I could go on and on and on. Fuuuuuuuck.

As a former prosecutor of child abuse cases, my best advice (that you haven't gotten yet) is that you teach your children the proper names for the private parts rather than nicknames. It is much stronger if the child ever has to tell what happened to them.

Slightly different... I was (I'm fairly sure) within a couple of driving lessons of being raped/attacked by my instructor. It took me several lessons of strange compliments which I shrugged off, trying to hold my hand/touch my leg (and then slide his hand up my thigh) which he covered as helping me with the gears, being told I was the only "woman" (I was 17, he was mid 40s) he'd ever loved apart from his wife, being asked to drive past his house so I'd know where it was if I wanted to "visit", asking me on dates with him and what finally drove me to tell someone was being asked what I liked on TV. I said something about a comedy, and he asked if I watched porn, what way did I like sex, he liked it some kinky way or other etc. I'd asked him loads of times to stop, that it was wierd, that he was being inappropriate but he kept saying he couldn't help liking me, that he was only asking me on a date and I couldn't blame him for trying. And then two minutes later he was back talking about sex. At that point I finally realised what a dangerous situation I was in (couldn't really drive, didn't have a phone, didn't know really where I was, alone in a car with a man much bigger than I was and no-one else knew where I was either) and told my mother (my Dad still doesn't know he touched me as I suspect he'd go ballistic and it's not worth the agro). She called the agency and had him fired. Turns out I wasn't the only one he'd done this to. I wish I'd said something earlier, but I felt ashamed, like it was my fault, or it wasn't that bad and I was making a big deal out of nothing. With hindsight I'm fairly sure he was within a couple of lessons of really trying something on. My advice - tell your kids to trust their gut. Don't assume that when they get older they can defend themselves - sometimes kids take longer to mature and learn how to stick up for themselves. Tell your kids that you will never ridicule their instincts if they say they don't want to see someone again - part of my problem was I thought my parents wouldn't just accept my instincts - I thought I needed proof or something tangible before I could do anything. And get your kids a driving instructor that has been personally recommended to you, make sure you know where the lesson will be going, give your kid a cell phone and although some women do molest children I would probably get a female instructor.

Tertia,
It's been a while since I've posted as my babes are keeping me busy! As a mom and a teacher I can not say enough good things about Gavin de Becker's book "Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)". (The gift he is referring to is our ability to experience fear and to know when to listen to our intuition when we are truly in danger - the short version!) It is a MUST READ for anyone with children. His first book "The Gift of Fear" is also amazing and really analyzes the methods and signs of predators -both strangers and people we know. Both books are truly empowering. But if you only choose one then read the one about protecting your children... it holds a place of honor on my book shelf!
Always lurking and still loving your blog -- Kristin

Last week I saw the movie Mysterious Skin - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0370986/

It's a hard watch but about a very difficult subject but it is a very well put together film. We saw it in a cinema and while it was very uncomfortable at times (lots and lots of gay sex (some violent) featuring men and/or children) neither Lou or I came out of it feeling bad. It covers the 'grooming' mentioned above and some of the behavioural changes that can take place as it follows the story of two boys who were abused by their baseball coach.

Really I think the best thing you can do is to stay 'connected' with your child. I was abused when I was a teenager and it could not have happened if the relationship with my parents hadn't been so fucked up at the time. Children know when things are 'not right' and you need to teach them to tell you if they feel that way. You might get a lot of weird storys that don't mean anything but if something is happening hopefully you will get that too.

Also make sure you lock your windows at night and make friends with your neighbours. We have had several cases here of intruders entering through the childs bedroom window and taking them out the same way. If your neighbours know you well and see someone they're not sure of they may be able to contact you to let you know that things aren't right.

*WARNING - EXTREME CHILD ABUSE IN DETAIL*
There was one horrible case of a man taking a six month old baby from her crib and violently raping her in the alleyway behind her home. A neighbour found him after hearing the babys screams and worrying that there had been an accident. The baby girl died 6 hours later and the man was returned to the psychiatric facility he had left 4 hours before the attack.

I agree with Lissa. *Never* push something like this under the rug. I was sexually abused by my brother from ages 4-6 (he was in his early teens) and once my mom found out about it (apparently I had told her, I don't remember doing this, but she had told me I was the one that brought it to her attention) it was put to a stop but nothing else ever came of it, it was *never* talked about again and there no reassurance from her part either. The only people she told were my grandparents and apparently they had decided it was in the best interest to not tell anyone so they could protect the family name (my grandparents are very wealthy and well known in the community here) and to protect my brother. I can't even begin to explain how it made me feel as a child and what it has done to me ever since.

I do believe you can be too "involved" too, though. My best friend was raped by her father from the ages of 7-10 and once her mother found out her father was put in prison but her mother became extremely protective and it was so extreme when people would question her about it she had no problem broadcasting to anyone that asked that her daughter was raped and she had every reason to react that way. It humiliated my friend and just added to the damage of her father raping her. Her mother also badmouthed her father to her and just about everyone else that knew him and ripped all the pictures of him up and from family photos, and I know this surely didn't help my friend either. It just added more and more to the damage.

If it ever happened to your child I would say the best advice would be to make sure the child understands it wasn't their fault and they should never feel guilty about it, give them reassurance and get them all the help they need.

What chris described does not sound like " Childhood sexual curiosity" . I understand , 21stcentury mom, what you are saying ( as the mom of a little guy who is very much infatuated with his penis :o) we shouldn't get bent out of shape about those things...but showing and touching are totally different. How many pedophiles were molested themselves? It is an unfortunate cycle. we need not over exaggerrate childhood exploration, but we need to pay close attention to knwo what is really going on. when a child says " please make ____ leave me alone" that is a good sign that it goes beyond innocent exploration.
A family i know never let their children have spend the night parties out of their home, or out of their sight intheir own home, or to even socialize with others outside of their range of sight or hearing. this seems extreme ( because the went even for extended family0 but there children are all well-adjusted, successful and raising their own familes...and they were never abused or exposed to things without their parents knowing about it also. I don't think everyone needs to be this extreme, but I think, as others have hit on, the key is being your child's keeper- you have those very few other trusted adults, and after that, it is kind of a you against the world... aren't our kids precious enough for that.
my sister and I were molested by one of my moms boyfriends. She did not make us her priority- she assumed that since she knew and liked him, it was okay to leave us. it should have been. the abuse lead to a lot of other problems with us...we took separate paths in dealing with it. i got over being angry about it, learned it doesn't define me, and am now a very aware, cautious mama ( because there are times when someone seems perfectly fine, but your gut just knows) - my sister is 18, chose to go into foster care before this, is a stripper( I am saying this only to give a hint at the other sexual stuff with her, not that stripping means you are messed up ) , very angry with parents, serious drug use by early teens..... You know, that family's extremism doesn't sound that extreme anymore

Just chiming in for another vote on Gavin De Becker's book - Protecting the Gift. He has different ideas about how to empower children rather than scare them or try to. I haven't read the other one - will have to get it.

while growing up I always had the security that no matter what my parents would be there. Once I went to sleep to my aunt's house, middle of the night I decided I wanted to go back home and my parents drove there to get me. Same with parties, family, school, etc. I didn't called them constantly (maybe I did it 3 times from 5 to 12) but I *knew* I could call them and they would be there even if it meant lose a workday. And that's a kind of security I will always be greatful for.
About the "trust no one" line of thinking, I'm against it because you won't always be there, at least not every.second.of.the.day. And having friends that can't come over to your house for sleepovers and stuff really sucks. I think is suffocating for the kids. A story: When I was 10 I had a classmate that wasn't allowed inside someone else's house without her 14 year old brother. First, the brother was more dangerous to us (his sister's friends). Second, the girl used to tell his dad she was going to the store and instead she was hanging out with much older kids, and she did lots of stupid things. But she was never alone inside someone else's house. Pretty stupid from her father's side if you ask me.

Be honest about EVERYTHING. Empower them with self-confidence. Listen to them. Trust what they tell you.
GIVE THEM SELF-DEFENSE CLASSES AT THE EARLIEST AGE YOU CAN!!!!
This way if the bastards try to touch your angels they will have all the tools to fight back... verbally, mentally and physically.
Karate classes, for instance, are great for kids to learn self-defense AND self-confidence.

I was abused also, but a family relative. My mother, who was also abused, always taught me about "stranger danger". To run and scream if a stranger was inappropriate with me. What had never occurred to me was that it would be my grandfather, whom I adored and respected. I had been brought up to be extremely respectful of my elders, so I remember being so torn. Do I scream and yell at him to stop. Or will i get in trouble for being rude to grandpa. (I was only 9).

I guess they need to learn that it could come from anywhere. And that it is ok to yell, whoever it is.

But I don't think we should be telling our children that noone can be trusted. I think that makes the world a sad and lonely place. More than perhaps it needs to be.

Cautious. Yes. Aware, yes. But scared and untrusting of everyone, not so much.

Tertia, I pray that you NEVER ever have to go through this with your precious children.

My experience was not nearly as horrible as some of the commentors, but it does provide a good lesson.

Listen to your kids. If they don't like someone, don't make them be around that person.

My piano teacher was an old man. He liked to give me a kiss when he came and when he left. Soon it was a big wet kiss on the lips. It made me uncomfortable. I told my mom I did not like the kisses, she just brushed it off and said he was just an old man, like Grandpa (who also liked to give me kisses, but who I loved and who was wonderful to me).

Then once he brushed my breast with his hand, I knew it was intentional. I didn't tell my mom, I thought she would say it was probably just an accident (now I am not sure, she may have believed me and possibly killed or maimed him). I told my mom again that he made me uncomfortable and she asked if I wanted her to sit in the room during lessons - I said yes. I wish she would have just found me a new teacher. I ended up quiting piano altogether, which I really regret.

The moral of this story - listen to your kids. Kids are smart. I knew there was something wrong with those kisses, even if my mother did not. I am sure he would have tried more if my mom hadn't stayed in the room.

Never been abused. Hoping my kids are never abused :( So I am one of those 'will talk about anything, you can tell me anything' protective moms who knows where my kid is, with who and why 24 hours a day. I think doing similar, providing a loving and secure home, and being there for the kids is a step in the right direction.

Here's another recommendation of _Protecting the Gift_. It's wonderfully empowering and realistic. What was most impressive to me was the message that it's dumb to be obsessed with the far-out dangers that happen to so few, and much more efficient and safer to pay attention to the things that are real dangers. It gave my belief in myself as a parent/protector a real boost. I think it might help you feel less, well, helpless, T.
My cousins were raped repeatedly by a stepfather when they were very, very young. No one knew the details, but we all knew the household was in trouble and the stepfather was creepy. How I wish someone would have spoken up sooner.
Thanks for asking a tough question. It benefits us all to talk about it.

Hello. :)

I agree with Malone! I am very protective of my 4 year old Twins, Edward and Cecilia. I always know where they are, and I always will! It seems to me that most cases of child abduction happen when a child is alone and unsupervised, as in being sent to the shops for bread or milk. Or playing in a park alone, or walking home from school.

I will always screen my childrens Friends' families really well, and it will be a long time before 'sleep overs' are allowed anywhere but at our house!

One thing I once read, and that Im now teaching my little ones, is that if they are grabbed by a stranger, they have to fight, gouge eyes, kick and scream "This person is going to hurt me.. Help!" Over and over again. We have all seen a child creaming in his or her parents arms, and assumed a tantrum. I have seen a little boy screaming for his Mum whilst being carried by a man, I was about to approach him when the little boy called the man Daddy. But if you teach your child to directly identify the abducter as a stranger who will hurt them, it will bring the wrath of a protective society upon him/her and hopefully save your child.

In Australia, near Sydney where I live there have been a spate of attempted child abductions, and Im very, very wary. People pulling up alongside families and grabbing one of the children in daylight, its so, so frightening. So I keep my babies close, and watch them.. all the time!

Your Twins are beautiful, Tertia. Its an honour to share your experiences.

:)

Im sorry, my first time posting.. I did mean that I agree with Maia. :)

Cheers!

At my daughter's school, they've had stuff drilled into them from Grade 0 - basically, not to allow inappropriate touching, to call for help, and always to tell a trusted adult if anything happens. I think that's great - the school has been really pro-active about it all.

I was abused by my own brother. He is 5 years older than me. Because of the age difference, I was always told to listen to him, he is older than me.

Well, had I not been told that, had he not been given that power over me, this might not have happened. Never give on child power over another

When I was growing up, whenever I went out, my mother would say "Be careful." I'd look at her, annoyed, and it would be amended to "Have fun, but be careful, too!" The sad truth is we can only protect those we love up to a point if we want them to fully live life. But we can teach children to protect themselves, in some of the excellent ways that other posters here have described.

The good - but controversial - news is that people, including children, are FAR more resilient than one could ever imagine. About six years ago, an analysis of most existing data on the effects of child sexual abuse showed that the long-lasting effects of such abuse are not nearly as intense as typically believed. This caused quite a stir, because some conservative commentators (looking at you, Dr. Laura) interpreted it as an excuse for sexual abuse of children. It does not say that. Among other things it doesn't say is that sexual abuse of children is not traumatic, and NEVER does any harm. Of course any sane parent wants to prevent their child from experiencing it.

As a survivor of a rape during my childhood, I saw it as a message of hope that validated my experience: this incident doesn't define me anymore than my hair color and bad eyesight do. It's one thing that happened to me, and it really, really and truly sucks, but long-term, I was not inevitably fucked up.

In short, empower your kids, protect them as best you can, and let them dive into life. At some point, despite your best efforts, something bad will happen to them - a pet will be lost, a friend will die, they'll be hurt - and if you've helped them develop an inner core and strong support system, they'll probably be OK.

An example? Merely look two posts back. If you were to describe what you've been through to an outsider, she would probably predict she wouldn't have gotten through it. The amazing truth is that - though you are G&D - you're not unique: people are far, far stronger and more durable than they can ever imagine. Your kids will be too.

***

For those interested, here's the abstract of the article (Rind, Tromovitch, & Bauserman, 1998, in Psychological Bulletin) I talk about:

Many lay persons and professionals believe that child sexual abuse (CSA) causes intense harm, regardless of gender, pervasively in the general population. The authors examined this belief by reviewing 59 studies based on college samples. Meta-analyses revealed that students with CSA were, on average, slightly less well adjusted than controls. However, this poorer adjustment could not be attributed to CSA because family environment (FE) was consistently confounded with CSA, FE explained considerably more adjustment variance than CSA, and CSA-adjustment relations generally became nonsignificant when studies controlled for FE. Self-reported reactions to and effects from CSA indicated that negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and than men reacted much less negatively than women. The college data were completely consistent with data from national samples. Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported.

"About six years ago, an analysis of most existing data on the effects of child sexual abuse showed that the long-lasting effects of such abuse are not nearly as intense as typically believed."

Then why do so many of us fall into depression, drugs, suicide, extreme sexual behaviour and the like?

I've taught my 4 year old daughter from day 1 that she never has to give anyone a kiss, hug, whatever. If she says "no" to giving grandpa a kiss, we just tell her to blow him a kiss or give him a high five. What she does with her body is her choice.

I teach her that her body is HERS. She is in charge of her body and no one (aside from Mommy giving her a bath or the doctor checkin her out *with Mom in the room*) should touch her in certain areas. If anyone does she knows to tell us. The other day we were swimming in the pool and my SIL's foot touched DD's hiney under the water as she was swimming. She yelled "Aunt Alyssa, don't touch my private body!" I was so proud.

She knows NO ONE is allowed to touch her, not even a trusted relative.

I think abusers prey on children who will keep quiet. Children they have access to and who will not protest or tell.

I hope and pray she is never in a situation where she has to yell at someone to stop, but I'm doing my best to keep her out of those situations.

She is never left alone with anyone other than me, MIL, her female cousins or Daddy. You just can't *really* trust anyone. You have to have a constant dialogue with your kids. Ask them how they feel about the people around them. Take their cues. If they don't want to give Uncle So and So a hug, don't make them! Let them be in charge of their own bodies, enourage them to stand up for themselves, allow them to speak their minds and hope and pray they will never have to deal with any abuse.

Oh, and I have both De Becker books and re-read them all the time. We are all born with ingrained fear signals. Most of us rationalize our way out of really trusting them. "Something's not right with this man...but he *seems* nice and I don't want to be a paranoid bitch..."

We need to listen.

Oi this is a hard article.

I don't wish my mum did anything different. She was always open about strangers, family and sex and how I could tell her anything and yet I never did. I was told by her brother that if i did my mother would go to jail. Noone would believe me and I'd be taken away from my family.

When I was 12 I told my friends, who told my mum. Who asked me and I didn't deny it. She and my dad made me tell the police.

What I regret is how the rest of the family handled it. My Nana was influential in him not going to jail. My great-aunt told her granddaughter not to tell anyone about her own abuse at the hands of the same person. My cousin and sister were also molested by the same relative.
Nothing was done.
He's still out there I haven't had any contact with that family for 8years.

I never knew what I'd do to keep my girl safe. I know I'd chop off my leg before I'd put her through anything like my past.
Thankyou ladies for your stories and ideas.

Sorry for posting anon but I need to talk about my job. I work in law enforcement. I work with all of the law enforcement agencies in the area surrounding the city in which I work. We get 4-5 sex assault kits every single day. These are the swabbings and items collected when someone is sexually assaulted. Some come from adults, some from children.

None of the stories I work on make the local news and they happen every. single. day.

The number one lesson I have learned is that you never ever leave your child with anyone you do not know and know very well. My children will only be cared for by immediate family members and even then we will be very particular. My mother, DH's mother, my sister and one his sister's will be the only babysitters my kids will know. None of our brothers because they are all "poor decision makers" who have screwed up thier lives. None of the brothers are molesteres but if you make bad desisons in one part of your life it carries over into other areas and they have "friends" we would not trust.

Also, if you have kids and you are single/become single, you stay that way. Case after case is a step-father or boyfriend molesting the kids in the house. Pedophiles know who is a potential vicitim and that is what they look for.

Finally, listen to your gut. If something doesn't seem right then it isn't and it is your responsibility to do something about it. It is our responsibility to protect our children. I believe that overreacting and protecting your child is better than ignoring the "feeling" that you have.

My quick thoughts, without having survived abuse nor having read the comments:

"Stranger danger" doesn't work as an anti-abuse teaching tool. Kids don't really understand the concept of stranger, adults undermine it all the time ("Say hello and answer this nice lady's question"), and most abuse (80+%) is perpetrated by people the family and the child would consider "known."

Teach your children to respect their bodies and to trust their instincts. NO ONE touches their private parts. If something feels icky to them, it is icky to them.

Don't make them hug, kiss, or otherwise be affectionate with someone they don't want to. NEVER say "give so-and-so a hug/kiss."

Kids have decent radar for unsafe situations. Yes, kids can be fooled, but generally, they knew/know something is off. The trouble comes when they don't know what to do about it. Teach them to yell loud, find a crowd, get away.

Surround them with loving, caring adults whose protection they can count on. I believe that the bigger the community of people loving for and caring for your child, the better. But I also don't hesitate to trust my OWN gut. One of my friends has a husband whose sexual boundaries with me are completely screwed up. I would never send my kids over to their house if he were home alone with the kids.

FWIW, it turns out that the husband of my mom's best friend was abusing their middle daughter for years. Both I and another of my best friends spent LOTS AND LOTS of time in that house, on sleepovers with the oldest daughter. NONE of us suspected a thing. Abusers tend to target kids who are vulnerable, whom they can manipulate, whom they can shame. Many abusers are in an abusive RELATIONSHIP: they'll only move onto a new victim when the old victim becomes unavailabe. That's why the devil you know is so much more scary than the devil you don't.

Know the statistics: the biggest years of danger for sexual molestation are the teen years. The number of kids in the USA bein abused before the age of 11 is low. It's your teen (especially your teen daughter) who needs the most empowerment to protect herself.

Remember: trust your instincts. Trust your kid's instincts. They can carry you far as you explore the world together.

I have a teenage son who is a great babysitter. Little boys especially love to have a male babysitter to play with. I hate to think of them missing out on having a male sitter because their parents were anxious about molestation.

Mothers of sons like to prepare them to be great dads, and spending time with kids is part of that preparation. We can't let fear create a generation of boys who haven't had any contact with kids.

Yes, be careful, talk to your kids both before and after they have been away from you. But let's work together to keep our kids safe.

I strongly disagree with Jessy's post. I do believe it causes serious damage for the majority of people who were sexually abused and go without getting any help or 'therapy'. I'm sure the people who wrote that study were never raped or else they would have never even thought about writing such a thing. I'm not saying that it isn't possible to get through the long term problems at all or that *everyone* suffers them, but to say that most don't have severe long term problems is bullshit, I'm sorry. I'm not saying all get into drugs, get depressed, and go wild, but it can cause severe long term psychological damages. Some go the exact opposite way. While I never went out and did any drugs or drank excessively, I did become very depressed and introverted and I didn't even let a man put his hands on me again until I was 20, when I mean put his hands on me I'm referring to something as little as a hug. Even then I had serious issues with intimacy such as cuddling and kissing. By the time I actually had sex it took me years to actually enjoy it. I eventually learned to get through a lot of it. So please please don't say it doesn't cause serious long term damage for "most"(especially those who never got any therapy for it), I go by first hand experience and out of everyone I know who's been abused (which is quite a few people), they'd agree with me.

I haven't read thru all the comments, so forgive me if somebody already mentioned this book. "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin DeBecker is a very very good book all about protecting your children from abuse and violence. I am not big into parenting books, but I can't recommend this one enough.

It happened to me when I was 8 years old, because I didn't know the meaning of things like "make love", or that certain areas were not meant to be touched. I knew about "stranger danger", but hadn't been warned that trusted people can be just as dangerous as strangers.

I guess, make sure that they know about "private" from an early age, make sure they know that they can talk to you openly and that you won't get angry with them or blame it on them. And make sure they know that they don't have to do anything that makes them uncomfortable. It's one of those things that I have no idea how I'll address when I have kids. I'd like to think they can stay innocent, but at the same time I know that a little-less-innocent is a little-better-protected.

Incredibly depressing answer time - You can't. It's not predictable or truly preventable. Sometimes the luck of the raw just is what it is. Not all abusers are creepy, not all have records of abuse, not all abuse children only after they enter school (and the school "bad touch/good touch lessons start.) Not all abused children are emotionally neglected at home, and not all act out as small children in response.

If you were to ask my parents if I was ever sexually abused they would unequivocably say no. I never showed any signs, and was asked directly about it (abuse, not the specific abuser) several times. My mother and I get along incredibly well and have a very open and wonderful relationship. My husband wouldn't know if it wasn't for a night, years ago, that I had way too much to drink. I was the perfectly smart, well adjusted, doing wonderfully in school, blah, blah, blah child. I rebelled as a teenager some, but no more then most. I'm pretty damn typical.

And that's what makes it so scarey.

I've also been overly promiscuous, have difficulty setting sexual boundries, and, at times, intensely suicidal. But if you were my best friend who had known be for years, you wouldn't know these things to be true. People abused as small children can become very good at disguising pain.

You can't simply "trust no one." You trust Marko, Rose, you parents and in-laws, Beauty, etc. And that's a good thing. You have to trust people, it's a fact of life. And that's why abuse, no matter how vigilent a parent is, etc, happens. Because in the end, small children are small children and adults are adults.

I'd go for prayer and hopefulness.

Sorry about the anon, Tertia, you can easily recognize the IP, but...

My grandfather was my molester. He had a good time with me & my sisters. All of his molesting was done through our clothing. I have vivid memories in which he would have me sit on his erect penis (on his lap) right there in front of the entire family at a family gathering. For all the world it looked like a loving grandfather having his granddaughter sit on his lap. At every possible opportunity he would feel my breasts or between my legs.

I USED TO BEG MY PARENTS NOT TO MAKE ME GO VISIT GRANDPA.

I USED TO TELL THEM IT HURT TO SIT ON GRANDPA'S LAP.

I USED TO TELL THEM GRANDPA'S LAP WAS HARD.

I USED TO TELL THEM I DIDN'T LIKE TO BE AROUND GRANDPA.

I USED TO TELL THEM HE'D FOLLOW ME INTO THE BATHROOM.

I USED TO BEG THEM NOT TO LEAVE ME ALONE WITH HIM.

Never once did my parents take me seriously. My mother used to hush me up when I'd try to talk to her privately. She actually got mad at ME for trying to say such things. She never put two-and-two together to understand what I was trying to say. I didn't know what I was describing, all I knew was that I did not like being around Grandpa. No one listened to me.

21stCenturyMom - I agree with you completely on the natural curiosity children have in regards to viewing and exploring. Unfortunately, this child said and indicated far more than that. As I said, stepdaddy was molesting him, and it was these actions he was conveying. I would have been more correct in saying MY son did not view it in a sexual context, but poor "John" already knew, from his molestation ( Mom married him when "John" was four - and I shudder to think how long he endured what he did). I find myself wondering if he approached other boys who DIDN'T tell their parents - to me it is a sure cry for help. If nothing else, at least it raised an alert and he was able to helped ( Stepdaddy was convicted, is serving time and his Mom - thank god - saw the bastard for what he was, divorced him and told him, the court and all present at the sentencing that when he was released if he was ever within 5 miles of her or her son she'd shoot him. I believe she means it, too).
I say thankfully she saw him as he was, because far too many times the parent cannot fathom such awful actions from someone they love, and take NO steps to protect their children.

Never compare your beauty to that of a raped child. Never say to her "I have bigger boobies then you!" "I have prettier face then you."

Petty bullshit sayings to a child who knows more about sex then you do made me go out and PROVE it. Having deliberate sex at age of 12 years old, to prove you were pretty to you mother..... That's SICK.

NEVER under ANY circumstances, allow your child to date a man older then She is by 2 or more years... Atleast not until she is a legal ADULT.

Have more scruples then a 13 year old sex starved girl.

I was raped at a very young age. The boys who did it were my parents bestfriend's sons. They never were caught.. I didn't exactly "tell".. I went missing for a good hour or two.. My mom was pregnant with my brother and was frantic. She found me at their aparment, on the steps.. She described in gory detail for me. I don't remember it, but I have aversions to new people, and anyone holding me down. I fight back to any presure that is forced on me.

I was molested by my parents friend they had known and opened their home to, they had known him for 8 years. He told me lies like above that he would hurt my parents if I told them. He made me believe that it was "ok"... and it did feel good sometimes.. But I still knew it was wrong, and I still feel guilty when I think of those memories. I tried to tell my mom, but he always watched me. I was never alone long enough with my mom to tell her. So when he made me draw (I was/am a v. good artist) dirty pictures of the porn videos he made me watch.. I accidentally/onpurpose dropped one where my mom would find it.

Instead of calling the cops right then, my mom put a gun to his head. I stood in scared thunder that I may have caused his death...... But she shot his waterbed instead and told him to get out. Then she called the police and that was awful.. They didn't believe me. They took a report, but I saw the officer's faces, they asked me what I wore to bed. :( They asked me how I acted around him. They asked me if I talked dirty to him too.. I cried.. I didn't know what I did to deserve it. I didn't do ANYTHING to him..
Until I remember that I was humping the carpet one night... I didn't know it was wrong, or what it meant. But apparently he did, and that was the night the nightmare started. I knew about sex alot sooner then any kid in my class.. I was explorative. before my time.

I was a tease... or so I was told, and raped at 15 for it. The damage was done, and wouldn't you know no one took me to counciling. No one decided that my emotional need was important enough for that. But mom made sure I understood that "not all men" are like that. Of course she would still say that today, and 20 men and 8 pregnancies later I might believe that. I was a slut in school, and no one told me that was wrong either. I was encouraged to sleep around by mom... But we won't go into the competition that she put up.. That's a whole nother ball game.

What can you do to protect your child? Put your child's needs ahead of your own. If your going to make a decision that will effect their well being, by god act like you have two cents to rub together and make the choice based on their safety.

I asked my daughter (one of two) to tell me what a stranger looked like. Seemed like a good idea.. She just told me that it's anyone who hasn't been introduced. Unrecognizable face is what she said. I smiled.. I covered that base, and I have on numerous occasions covered molestation and rape.

I remember when they were 3 years old.... By that age I had already taken an active role in thier identities and made sure they knew the names of the various parts that are THEIRS. I made sure they knew copulation and birds and bees in their "world" view. Unobtrusive, Non pornographic Young child learning mater of FACT type of lessons. No touching by anyone is approprieate. Why? Because I was raped at three years old, and I had to endure surgeries and pain for it. EVEN my own pediatrician was against me teaching them their bodies!!! I wonder why I questioned myself. I wonder WHY.. I wanted to stop the cycle of abuse in my family. I want to STOP the neglect, the hitting, the screaming, the fighting, The slights, and sexism.. How to stop that?

Teach them YOUNG. Forcefully stop yourself every single time you feel the NEED to take your anger out on your child. RE-evaluate every single lesson you learned as a child. WATCH people around you, learn from their mistakes!! Why do you have to make them?

My lessons were age approprieate in my mind. I wanted to give them TOOLS to use, and I did. I am v. happy that I will know immediately should something happen. The situation I am in, it's the only consolation I have. But I don't regret teaching them all I have to give them more chances then I had when I was young, undefended, unprotected and unloved.

TM

Hi, I am a first time poster, long time lurker. When I was 15 I was raped by a stranger. 9 months later I had a little girl that I was determaned to protect. Abby is 16 months old and everyday I think about what I should do as a mother to keep her safe. I KNOW my mom could have done more. I wish she had
~Asked me again if I was okay, even though I said I was.
~Talked to me about sex so I felt comfortable talking to her about it.
~Noticed that my grades were dropping and I stopped seeing friends.

The thing I am glad she didnt do is keep an eye on me every second. She didnt panic me when I was 20 minutes late from school. She taught me to be wary of strangers, but not constantly afraid.

I guess the truth is that try as you may, you cannot 100% protect your kids. Bad things happen to good people, careful people. Love your kids, have faith in their judgement, and talk to them all the time.

Good luck... God bless.

I have to second the no introducing men to kids if you are a single parent comment made above.

My mom left my dad when I was 5. She ran away with a guy she thought she loved (he had been my dads best friend up till then)

We moved from Californis to Florida with him. Lived there for two years.

Two years of being raped. Two years of being forced to perform oral sex on him. Two years of unspeakable acts of abuse.

She left him, not because of that but because he could not hold a job. She claims she never knew. She says he was such a good guy, she can't imagine him having done those things. (I finally told her when I was 29)

Funny... Such a nice guy... He used to get drunk and beat the shit out of her. Then when alone with me and my brother he came after me.

Once back in California and out of his clutches, I was molested by my uncle. The uncle everyone knew was a freak but still left alone with my brother and I. My uncle who raped my mom, raped my two aunts was left to babysit. Brilliant move. Denial was the rule of the day. Even now, my mom rarely speaks pf him and his acts. Even after he got a job as a school bus driver, nobody came forward. He lost his job within a year. Anybody want to guess why?

Then there is the brief marriage that led to a stepdad with a penchant for young girls. No rape, "just" fondling, but it was still damaging.

At 17, I was on a date. The young "man" offered to take me to the scholl and teach me how to drive a stick shift in the parking lot. After a few laps, we stopped. I said no several times, tried to push him off. As things progressed I shut down, no longer able to fight. I guess he took that as consent. He raped me. I never told anyone I was so ashamed.

At 19, I took my best friends husbnd out to put in job applications. He had no car that day as she had been called into work. He had interviews to be at. I offered to drive him around. Mid-day my infant son got tired. We went back to the apratment so he could nap briefly and so "M" could set up a few more interviews.

I was beaten and raped by him. He kept telling me he loved me. For the next few nights he pounded on my windows screaming his love and apologies. I moved that weekend. Again, I never told anyone.

When my first daughter was born, I vowed I would always protect her. She would never know the pain I'd lived through.

When she was 10 she met a neighbor girl. They quickly became not only best friends but were joined at the hip. Where you saw one girl, you saw the other.

The friend had an uncle. He always offered to take the girls skating, to the movies, to get treats. He was very friendly. Something about him bothered me though. Red flags and warning lights went off for me. I ignored them feeling as if I was judging him for my own past experiences. Turns out, I was right to be worried. The very first time my daughter spent the night at the friends house, she was molested by the uncle.

All my talking and teaching was for naught.

She finally told me about it after about 2 weeks. I called the police. I had him arrested. We went to trial. He was convicted.

While I may have failed at protecting my child I did one thing my mom never did for me. I made damn sure the bastard was held accountable.

Pedophiles often groom their victims. Very rarely do they strike first. They set the kids up. Befirend them, make the kids trust them. Attention, little gifts, outings. Often with other kids, family, to gain trust.

Behind the kind friendly veneer though, lurks a monster.

If you ever get a funny feeling about someone, go with it. Don't worry about offending them. Don't worry about hurting their feelings. Act on those gut feelings. Often they are accurate.

Teach them not only about strangers, but family members, teachers, doctors, neighbors, friends family members.

Teach them about good touches and bad touches. Teach them ownership of their bodies. If they don't want to kiss grandma goodbye, don't make them. Any unwanted forced physical attention teaches them that they don't have the ability to say no even when uncomfortable.

When I taught girl scouts, we always did a unit on this topic. Parents HAD to attend in order for the child to come.

We talked about private parts. Those are anything covered by your swimsuit. Nobody has the right to touch there wihtout your permission. Yes doctors sometimes need to, but only if mom or dad are present.

Then I gave each of the girls a dollar bill. We talked about how it was real and all the fun things you can do with money. We talked about how it had value and was of importance.

Then I gave them each a piece of play money. What can you do with this? Nothing. Play with it, but nothing real could be done with it. It was fake. Worthless, meaningless.

From there we talked about real love and fake love. Safe loving touches and fake love touches. But the fake ones weren't out of love, the were hurtful. Love from people who really care always make you feel good before, during and after. Fake love may feel good sometimes, but it also hurts. It can make one feel bad inside.

I wish I could remember more of how this went as it really was a wonderful way to teach the kids. After one class, a little girl finally got up the courage to tell her mom about the teenage neighbor who was babysitting for the family.

Bottom line is, I guess, teach them, be alert and aware, but not paranoid. And god forbid, if something bad does happen, fight to make sure the monster is held accountable. Don't sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away.

Sorry for being so very long.... EEK! Just a topic that hits very close to home here...

Another thing to keep in mind, and this relates back to Christine Garafalo's post about another child inappropriately touching her son, is to make sure your kids know to tell you if their same-age friends are touching them inappropriately. This protects not just your kids, but their friends as well because it's a warning sign that may not be visible to adults.

21stCenturyMom is right that kids are curious, but if it involves a lot of touching, or if it happens repeatedly, then something is not right.

My best friend, when we were both 8, used to contrive various reasons for us to touch each others' private parts, or take off clothes, or give all-over massages or whatever. We saw her mom touching her brother in the bathroom, because his crying had woken us once when I was spending the night, but my friend told me that everything was fine. And I believed her and never said anything to anyone.

I think ultimately what my friend did to me was pretty harmless, but I really regret that I didn't tell -- didn't know to tell -- anyone because what was happening to her and her brother was NOT harmless. They moved and when I saw her again a year later she had changed completely, become very withdrawn. I hope she's doing OK now, wherever she's at.

I don't have time to read and see if this is repeating another 69 commenters, but this is my advice in a nutshell.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse and assault in my childhood and my adulthood, but thankfully am abuse free for 10 years (go me!).

Keep your eyes peeled, and trust yourself. If you do not have a history of abuse, or even if you do, trust your own gut instinct. If something feels a little odd, pay attention to it. Notice it. Stop it. Listen to your kids, and know their habits and reactions to things and people. This too will speak volumes, at any age.

I think the people who say "trust no one" are teaching fear, and that isn't what life is about either. Or at least it shouldn't be. God, I've lived in fear and I probably continue to live with that shadow for many years to come. You don't want to live that way, and you don't want your kids to live that way.

You can almost always trust your gut. Very few people will hurt your kids.... many more will actually help and protect them. You do have to be open to the possibility that someone might, of course, and just like grown-up rape, if a child is molested it is usually by someone they know. But instinct will tell you wether or not that's likely to be a problem.

I have a litmus test that is a good first approximation. Would I trust this man to get me home from the bar (safely, unmolested etc.) if I was drunk? If yes, chances are it's unlikely he'll treat my kids badly. If no, then I don't really want my kids out of sight with him either. It is only a first approximation.

Better late than never, but I wanted to add my 2 cents. Only a few people have mentioned this, but I think it's one of the most important things - ensuring your children know they can trust YOU. No matter what you do, you cannot 100% completely keep your children safe from harm. But it is so very important that they know they can come to Mum & Dad and tell them that something happened (assuming Mum or Dad isn't the abuser).

You can tell your children you love them until you're blue in the face, but they might not tell if you something is wrong, because they don't want to "worry you" or make you feel "bad" or make you (in their eyes) disappointed in them. I never told my parents about anything I dealt with because I thought they'd get mad at me and I'd get in trouble. It's so very very important that you're children know - really KNOW - that no matter what they do, what kind of trouble they think they're in, you will still love them. They must believe that nothing you will do in reaction to them telling you something they think is so bad, is worse than what they are actually suffering through.

I've only read half the comments, but these are things I've thought are important:

1) When people say, "Listen to your children," that includes not only listening to them when they are talking about "important stuff," but also when they go on and on with the most mind-numbingly dull, endless descriptions of cartoon hero show plots or sports games, etc. To keep lines of communication open, you need to have them be comfortable knowing you will hear them, even when your ears are about to fall off.

2) I have two sons now in their late teens, early twenties. When they were young I heard a doctor talk about sex abuse on a show, and one thing he said that stuck with me was how he would never have a pre-teen or young teen male babysitter for his children, because boys at that age were just discovering their own sexuality and might be tempted to experiment if they were in charge of young children. (Girls usually mature sexually a little earlier, and the hormones are different, so he thought that they were less of a risk, although they should be watched closely, too.) So, when my sons got those normal friend-crushes on one of the big boys in our neighborhood, I let them hang out with him, and hired him to fix their bikes with them, etc, while I was around, but would not have hired him to babysit. And when my boys were that age themselves, I discouraged babysitting jobs, and found them other jobs at home and in the neighborhood. I think discouraging boys that age from babysitting when they are young teens is protecting THEM as much as any children they might have babysat--maybe if parents can avoid getting their kids in situations where those errant sexual tendencies (pedophilia, sadism) might begin, they aren't likely to become habits/ways of being. A boy of. say, 12-16 shouldn't babysit, and if a guy older than that is socially- or sexually-immature, I wouldn't let or have them babysit either.

When I was young I did quite a bit of babysitting, and I honestly despised it. It felt like being trapped. I hated the way the houses of other people smelled when I was stuck there, I can still remember waking up on a neighbor's couch nauseous of the milky smell of the couch. (Clean, wealthy family with a nice couch, but still--someone else's smells are always gross.) So it wasn't hard to tell my boys, yuck, babysitting is awful, lets find easier ways for you to make some money.

My sons have both babysat their much younger cousins in the last few years, when they were past puberty. They are both now gentle, nurturing guys, and are very comfortable with babies and small children. Their younger cousins treat them as giant, living jungle gyms.

3) I also know about myself that I have a very finely adjusted bullshit meter and tend to have strong, sensitive, warning bells about people that I trust myself to heed. These have served me well in lots of situations. I know friends, though, who don't have this or mistrust or disregard it. If a parent knows this about themselves, they should be extra diligent to always question the motives and actions of people.

Hi, I've just read your post, and wanted to add a comment. My husband's step-son lived with us for a year, because he wasn't allowed to live at home as he had abused 2 of his stepbrothers and 2 other children. What I have learned from this experience is that, yes, abusers can be anyone, and mostly aren't strangers. Look at all the people you associate with, including close family, and think about whether you don't feel completely 'right' about them. If you don't, don't cut them out of your life, but don't let your children be alone with them. Trust your gut, never override an uncomfortable feeling about a situation for politeness. Your job isn't to be polite, or to save someone else from possible hurt feelings, it's to protect your kids. Since my first child was 6 wks old, this boy hasn't been in our home again, and never will be. He's still the same, despite years of counselling and sex abuse prevention therapy. he has no empathy for others, and has all the makings of a psycopath. Going to stop there on that topic! I love your blog, and you sound like a great mum. All the best

I've just read through all of these comments on child molestation. Many of them made me cry. I was repeatedly fondled by my step-brother starting from when I was 12 and he was 13. He was physically and verbally abusive and I was afraid of him. He would sneak into my bedroom at night and do just about everything he could do to a girl in the dark without actually having sex. About 6 months of that and I finally worked up the nerve to ask my mom for a lock for my bedroom door. She didn't understand why, and ignored my request. Finally about 6 months after that I told her the real reason. She got me a lock... that was all; but all the while, she suggested that she didn't really believe me. Then for another 6 months he continued to get into my room through a window. I tried to stay awake at night so I could hear him come in. It wasn't every night. In the summers when I didn't have to go to school, I didn't sleep. I'd stay up and mop the kitchen floor, or do dishes, or watch TV... anything not to have to go to my room. (He never did anything in daylight except for punch me, or say horrible things to me)I don't know why I didn't scream when he went into my room. Towards the end I worked up the nerve to ask if it was him when I heard someone in there (even though I knew it was him). He didn't answer, just left the room. When I think about it now, which I often do... I wonder why I was so afraid to do more. Why I didn't call the police, or something.
My little sister and I shared a room. At some point, I tried to warn her to be safe... Nothing ever happened to her, I know, because I've tried to talk to her about it since. (She even told me a few years ago that I should stop dwelling on it. So I suppose I must bring it up more than I realize. She's the only one I really can talk to about it all. Sort of. -I'm 39 years old now, and I still feel like I need to talk about it!!! - I read what someone said about the trauma of having experienced that, and how resilient kids are... this is true. But the one most painful thing for me about all of this is that to this day NO-ONE has ever said they're sorry for what happened. No one ever told me it wasn't my fault. No one ever gave me the opportunity to talk about my pain. And that man is still out there without having ever paid at all for his SICK and horrible behavior!! Please don't trivialize the pain people go through when experiencing this.) To this day, my mom has never really done anything to acknowledge what happened. Every time I ever brought anything up to my step-dad he'd get ragingly angry at me. Finally my step-brother moved in with his mom, but I still had to see him at school, and he was just SMUG about it.

I last saw him 5 years ago at my step-dad's funeral. If he wasn't grieving I think I would have decked him right there in front of everyone.

Your original post is from a year ago, so my comment is quite late, but I have read them all and feel like I have something to add. I was molested at age 5 by a stranger in the public library. One of the minority of children who are actually attacked by a total stranger. My parents taught be about good and bad touching, about no one, even if it someone you know, being allowed to touch your private parts. I knew all the right names for body parts. I knew that if someone did something that didn't seem okay I should yell and run away and find other adults. But when attacked, I did none of these things, because I was in the library and in the library you must be quiet. Such a well behaved child, not wanting to get in trouble, one set of rules overriding another. My attacker played on this and reminded me several times that we had to be quiet. To my parents' credit, when I told them they believed me, made a police report, and I hope to god someone told the library they had a predator hanging around.

So: in addition to proper names, bodily privacy, trust your instinct, and what to do, teach your children that it is okay to yell and scream and get help no matter where they are.

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