Because the Dugger incident has caused such a hugh discussion of child molestation, I have decided to share our story. Although not similar in anyway, our story is worth repeating because the chief goal of every parent should be protection and prevention. Long before there is a huge problem, there should be discussion and safeguardes put in place. It was only right that the Duggers sperated the boys and the girls and put locks on the doors at night. I’m not sure what else they did, but for you to make the right decisions for your family, perhaps you should read our story.
The phone call was a jolt. I really wasn’t prepared for the news a friend of ours had been picked up for child molesting. My mind found it difficult to comprehend how I could know someone and yet not really know him at all.
That first phone call brought so much to light it was hard to assimilate it all. During the next few days we discovered our friend had been involved with several in our own church’s youth group. We also discovered our circle of friends included another child molester. His offense had been covered up and kept a secret. Because of my husband’s position as youth pastor, we found ourselves thrown deeply into the whole situation. Hours were spent on the phone, in personal counseling, board meetings, private meetings, and in prayer. As more and more information became known we became more and more uneasy. We were worried about our own family.
Several weeks elapsed before my husband and I were able to discuss all that had happened. We compared notes as we attempted to digest and assimilate it all. The questions at the forefront of our minds were; how could we protect our own children from such a traumatic experience? Was it possible? Had our upbringing blinded us to these types of sordid problems? How could we become more alert without becoming paranoid? We decided to examine everything we knew or thought we knew.
Our friend, who had been picked up by authorities a few weeks before, was a victim himself of child molestation. He had, subsequently, “experimented” with cousins who spent the night at his home.
We did not know the background of our other friend. But we did know he was a likeable fellow who attended church regularly with his family and never gave the impression of being anything but normal. A man I would have allowed to baby-sit my offspring.
We talked about our own childhoods. Neither my husband nor I had ever had any advances made towards us. But I remembered my elementary school years and the rumors which flew about what would happen if you spent the night at “Jane’s” house. I listened to the rumors and vowed I’d never stay there!
Neither could we ignore what had happened in our own family. Our oldest daughter, who was now in high school, had an unfortunate experience when she was nine. She had spent
The night at her friend’s house and overheard the father trying to talk his daughter into complying with his wishes. The daughter had refused because she had company. Our child’s story was vague, and had gone through several channels before it had reached me. So I had poo-pooed it all away. Now, I couldn’t help but think I might have made a big mistake.
Since that first phone call we had come in contact with social workers. The statistics and facts which were a part of their every day job was information my middle class life did not include. I had no idea a large portion of child molesters were not strangers at all, but friends or relatives of the family.
We had three children who were still very young. They were happy, outgoing (very outgoing), and trustful. The questions kept coming back. How could we protect them? Was there anything we could do? Does a parent just stand by and hope for the best?
We knew we would not be with them constantly. A completely protected situation would not only be unhealthy, but also impossible. Even though one of the complicating facts was
that our friend had made his contacts through our church’s youth organization, we knew we could not keep our children out of every troop, brigade or sport which would come up in the next few years. We had to be realistic and yet not completely over anxious. As Christians, we knew God wanted us to protect and guide our children. We also knew there would be times when we would have to just let go and trust Him, also.
So, what could we do? We decided some “experimenting” occurred when children were left alone too long. Relying on their own resources can cause children to be interested in one another’s body. Invariably, someone will want to examine someone else. They will want to play “doctor.” The first decision we made was to check on our kids at play every 30 minutes. That was a decision which took some energy. After all, if the kids are quiet who wants to stop what you are doing and go check on them? The by-product of that decision was no “doctor kits.” That may sound extreme, but we had already banned guns, why not doctor stuff, too? We tried not to make a big deal of it all. We just guided their play into other channels. It wasn’t that hard.
Our next decision was the biggest. We decided our children would not do the popular “sleep over” thing. We would allow a slumber party every now and then to satisfy the social aspect, but we would no longer permit one of our children to spend the night at someone else’s home just for the fun of it. It was too risky. We weren’t clever enough or wise enough to recognize a molester or to know the hearts of those around us. Making a blanket “never” rule made it easier for us to relax and enjoy our friends. We did not have to guess at who was an approved parent and who wasn’t. Our “never” rule didn’t make us suspicious of everyone. It gave us freedom to suspect no one!
By excluding everyone we felt we made it easier for our children. They were too young to be told why. So we merely teased them. We told them we had paid for their beds so we wanted them to be used. We told them night time was family time. We told them they could see their friends all day long so why spend the night, too? We told them sleep overs made them too tired the next day. All these things were true. And, most of the time, our answers were sufficient.
Yes, we were tested. We were questioned. We had our boundaries pushed. It was seldom from our own kids, it was usually from other parents. Because we rarely shared our reasons, they didn’t understand. We were told we were too strict, too old fashioned, and too out of touch. They were sometimes close to impossible to handle, not the kids, their parents!
But we survived. And what is more important, our children survived. None had to go through the emotional upheaval such an experience brings. Mostly, we succeeded in protecting them and that is just what we had set out to do. I say mostly, because one of our adult children has memories of a slumber party where there was some checking and experimenting. Our one flexible rule, safety in numbers, didn’t hold up. Even slumber parties can be at risk for protecting a child’s sexuality. Our children are all over 20 now and have grown up to be healthy, happy, outgoing (very outgoing) and trustful adults. They have not had to go through long hours of therapy trying to redo memories as others have.
There are times when all Christians wonder why things happen the way they do. I doubt we will ever understand all the “whys?” of that situation. Perhaps God knew our own children would need extra protection. Perhaps you are reading this now because God knows your children do, too.