With the latest sexual molestation scandals of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, the allegations against Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta based mega church New Birth and the painstaking memory of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, we as single moms need to be more attentive and assertive towards protecting our children. What a sad state of affairs for single moms when so many look to respected men in the community to assist with socializing their children, particularly boys.
As a single mom with a now adult son and a teen daughter I never allowed any one adult to socialize with my children without my guidance or presence. If it were sports, school activities, or rehearsals, I was there, either in the car waiting, watching or participating. It never mattered to me how others judged me because when it’s all said and done taking these precautions outweigh the long term effects of my child being victimized, us suffering as a family, or me going to jail.
It was not uncommon for me to tell a sincere parent or coach, “No thank you I will drive her, even if I have to leave work early.” “Yes he can visit at your home with your son but, I will come to see who’s present.” I exhibited this same behavior at church and school, especially with my daughter “Do not sit in a room alone with any males.”
Single moms are not obligated to give any man free reign over their children even if they are in positions of authority. In The Myth of the Broken Home-Guidebook for Single Parents “Strangers” are obvious, but “Strange Nots” are very familiar to children. They include people who are around our children everyday including family members, teachers, preachers, friends and maybe even us. These are people our children should be able to trust, but we know it’s not always so. Children should apply some of the same protective techniques as with strangers.
In the late 80’s while pursuing a Master of Art degree in Human Behavior at National University my assignment in Contemporary Issues in Sexuality was to conduct research in developmental sexuality. I embarked on my inquisitiveness to interview a child molester, first to review the offender’s rationale and second to understand the manipulation used upon our children to enact the crime. After contacting the Department of Corrections, I made arrangements with the molester to meet at his home where he resided with his mother. My friends thought I was crazy, but I told them, “He doesn’t want me.” Upon arriving I met his mom and she escorted me through the back gate. I found them both to be quite pleasant and hospitable. After taking a seat on the couch she asked, “Are you OK if I leave?” “Yes” I responded”. During our taped meeting my ears heard stories that I never thought my mind could conceptualize nor reason with; such as how he chose and groomed his victims. How he made them feel guilty once they became engaged in the relationship. I also asked very detailed questions pertaining to his sexuality and how he came to offend. Considering the interview coupled with my research and education I have learned that child molesters have very specific predatory skills much like many offenders. The following are a few tips developed to equip and empower you to circumvent your children from being victims.
- 1. Monitor your child’s interaction with strangers – Immediately use this engagement as a teaching moment and get involved with a conversation your child is having with a stranger, especially if what you are teaching them is at risk. For example, One day while we were riding the trolley a man spoke to my son offering him a nickel. My heart fell to my stomach when my son, smiling, accepted the money. I thought, “He still doesn’t get it, and I need to take advantage of this now and use this as a teaching moment.” I turned to my son, “Jamal, what are you supposed to do?”
- 2. Never invite the men you meet into your home – You must be not only cautious for your own safety but that of your children as well. Are you hooking up too soon with the person you just met? I can’t stress this enough! Your children’s home is their safe haven; a place for them to find comfort and love. If you develop a friendship with a male, spend time with him outside your home. Meet at a restaurant or a local coffee shop. In addition, stop allowing men to pick you up on the streets. You do not know anything about these men. Stop it!
- 3. Moms, remember your children are not for sale – Their emotional and physical well being is much more important than paying the gas and electric bill or even the rent. If you go against what’s best for your children and allow others to disrespect their home, you will create a vicious cycle that will haunt you and them for a lifetime.
- 4. Know the whereabouts of your children at all times – As a single mom, one aspect of the interview with the child molester resonates in my mind is when he shared, “I look for children that seem as if no one cares. Those out past dusk and no one came looking for them or those who cruise the neighborhood with different friends looking to belong.” I have seen many parents send their children outside to play and never check up on them. They allow their teens to roam the streets without any supervision because they do not want to be bothered.
- 5. Discuss intimate parts of “the body” with your children as early as possible – First let them know that their body belongs to them and that NO ONE has the right to touch them in any way which makes them feel uncomfortable. I don’t care if it’s their knee, arm, or foot. This includes YOU as their mother, father, or guardian. You want your children to feel a sense of ownership, possessing something that belongs to them and only them. Use real words when describing these parts as well. Call it what it is and use words that are familiar to the two of you. This is the beginning stages of developing open communication. Once they experience how genuine you are they will not hold back opening up to you in the future.
- 6. If I am not there for you to ask me, the answer is No – This is a simple rule which alleviates many potential problems. It’s simple, and the decision is made for the child. They are not allowed to go anywhere with anyone if you are not there for them to ask. The answer is NO! That even includes family members. It’s not enough to tell your children not to take things from strangers, but tell your children not to take anything from ANYONE. There should be no mixed messages and it’s consistent. “If I am not there for you to ask me, the answer is no. No, you can’t go. No, you can’t have it, No, you can’t play with it, etc..” Once this rule is established, your children will have confidence, and if it’s something they really want to do, they will find a way to contact you or wait until they see you.
- 7. Always maintain a distinct yet unsuspecting password or phrase between you and your child – This should be a phrase or a word that only the two of you will recognize and use throughout their life. As your children grow, you will need to remind them about the password or phrase and when it should be used. For example, “Mom did you feed the fish today?” Well the both of you know that you do not own any fish and this is really a cry for help.
- 8. Use trusting men in your life as deterrents – I know this seems contradictory to what I’ve stated above, however if you have close male relatives or friends that you can trust, ask them to come by your residence every now as a presence. Being a single mom can be scary sometimes and you must be vigilant. While raising there were times when I became uncomfortable about unsavory characters lurking around or men who were just too friendly in the neighborhood. I summons my brothers or close friends to come over and spend some time around the house.
Single moms it’s unfortunate that many of us are exhausted and sometimes burdened, but life does not come with any guarantees, thus we must do our best to dot our “i’s” and cross our “t’s” and to do everything within our ability to protect our children.
Single mom April Gabrielle´ is the Single Parent Adviser and author of a candid and informative book The Myth of the Broken Home: A Guidebook for Single Parents (Put it on Paper Publishing, $21.99, 2010, ISBN – 9780615346076). She is a proud single mother of two, one, her son, a Cellular Molecular Biology major, and a teen daughter who is an honor student. She understands by real life experience the many challenges facing single parents. She holds a Master of Art degree in Human Behavior as well as completed coursework in a Master of Education and pursuing a Master Science Criminal Justice-Law. Search inside at www.Amazon.com