The “Talk” Should Be Mandatory by Stacey Honowitz
- I would be remiss as a mother and as a Sex Crimes prosecutor not to write today about the big verdict that came down against Jerry Sandusky on Friday night June 22. I frequently do legal analysis on television and was on the air on a few shows while the jury was deliberating. The whole country should know by now that this is the coach from Penn State who was charged with molesting and committing sexual battery upon several boys. This is a case that has received world wide attention because the defendant worked at a famous university. This case though is no different from the hundreds of cases all over the world that take place everyday, in every courtroom.
The importance of this entry today is to let parents know that they should not shield this type of case from their children that are old enough to grasp the concepts of bad touches. They need to know that there are adults that may try to hurt them. This case should be a wake up call for every parent who chooses to engage in parental malpractice and NOT talk about this subject matter. It is sad to think that this type of discussion has to be had in today’s society, but it does. If you think that sex crimes could never happen in your family, then you are sadly mistaken. Sex crimes has no boundaries, and it has reeked havoc on rich and poor, black and white, Jewish and catholic.
As parents, especially as older ones, we are supposed to be more mature. We are supposed to do everything we can to protect our kids, and that includes having to talk to them about some pretty uncomfortable topics. One of those topics is of course, sex. We are supposed to tell them about the “birds and the bees” and we are really expected to teach them about the “pedophiles and molesters”. We need to get our heads out of the sand and sit down and explain that there are people out there that thrive on this type of behavior. There is another huge responsibility that we as parents need to take on. We need to watch and analyze those who spend time with our children. There are too many scenarios where parents are so thrilled that someone is taking an interest in their kid, that they never think anyone could be doing harm to them. We are so caught up in sports, and getting chummy with the coaches. We leave our kids in the hands of others, and sometimes we throw common sense outside the window. You need to act as an investigator. You need to listen to that gut which might tell you that “this is not kosher”. You need to ask friends and others if they think certain behavior is weird. What has happened as I see it, is that parents have become lazy. We work hard to have kids, then many parents try to pawn the responsibility of teaching them on to everyone else.
Why would we think that a sexual predator would not hurt our child? I can assure you after being in this business for over twenty years, true pedophiles have one goal. If the child they seek has parents that appear to be more in tune, the trick is for the pedophile to get you, the parent to love them. If you love them, you will never think they would take advantage of your child. If the parents are not that involved, its left up to the child to like them. How is this done? Common sense will tell you that promises, gifts , trips and attention are what kids love. Once the friendship is bonded the abuse takes place, they are told not to tell , that it is “our secret” or “if you tell, nobody will ever believe you”. These are just a few tricks of the trade. They have their ways, and sometimes its as easy as saying “this is what everybody does”.
Listen, I don’t mean to give a lecture here, (actually I do but I am disguising it) but we need to take charge and stop turning our backs on this topic. I know its uncomfortable for most, but would you rather spend years in the prosecutors office waiting for a case involving your child to go to court?Wouldn’t you rather think about how to protect your kids instead of trying to figure out how your child will withstand cross examination? Its astounding to me that parents, the media, teachers and others still don’t want to discuss sexual abuse. I bet if G-d forbid it was their kid, they would be banging my door down to give the perpetrator the electric chair.
Start early, little kids won’t laugh at the words vagina and penis, it is the adults and the world that make those words taboo. Have the discussion often, its not a one shot deal. Ask your kids if they understand how important it is for them to tell someone! Let them know that they can tell more than one person in case they are nervous that somebody won’t believe them. Trust your own instincts and if you suspect something, report it. If you find that you don’t know how to start this talk, break the ice with my books, “My Privates are Private ” or “Genius with a Penis, Don’t Touch!”. I wrote them specifically for parents and kids to engage in a conversation about sex abuse without feeling uncomfortable. Good luck, I know you are up for the task.