Too Scared to Talk – By Stacey Honowitz
As a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Prosecutor for close to twenty-four years, its still amazes me that parents find it too difficult to talk to their kids about “bad touches” and sexual abuse. It’s is astonishing that society today is made up of Internet porn, reality show kids who get drunk and have sex on the air, coupled with sexting over the phone, and people still believe that topic is taboo.
If you turn on the news every night you just might catch me talking about the latest sex abuse scandals. Nobody is immune from sexual abuse. As I try to explain to parents in my lectures, you can be rich or poor, black or white, catholic or Jewish, and you still might not be able to escape it.
You can send your kids to the finest school, have them socialize with the finest of children, and you still might be involved in a case. Sex abuse really knows no boundaries, and I have prosecuted the richest of rich and the poorest of poor. I have also had very wealthy victim as well as kids who were on welfare. The statistics do not lie, and one in six girls will be sexually abused by the time they are eighteen and one in four boys. What is it going to take for educators and parents to realize that this is an epidemic and something needs to be done? Why is it that I am constantly met with resistance when I try to introduce my books into a school, or for that matter, get them on a morning show segment when the target audience is moms?
The easiest way to get the message across I guess is to have the parents come to the office for just one day. They will get to see the parade of children who have to come in and report to me about who, what, where, and when someone performed a sexual act upon them. They will get to see, the parents or the caretakers sitting in the waiting area for their kids after they come out of a deposition or interview all upset. We only get to see the high profile cases on television, but there are thousands of them. Everyday, in every courtroom, in every state there is a sex crimes case either starting for trial or settling on plea deals. So what is the answer?
I have tried to do something on my end to educate parents and kids. I lecture quite often to parents about the reality of the situation. I tell them that a ten minute uncomfortable conversation is a lot better than spending five years in the state attorney’s office waiting for your case, not knowing what will happen to the perpetrator. I have tried to let people know that kids at a very early age need to know about their private parts, the proper names for their private parts, and what to do if they ever find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, but this education is not embraced. Parents would rather believe that their child could handle it, or that it’s never going to be a part of their family. Big surprise, you are burying your head in the sand and your failure to educate amounts to “parental malpractice.” These words are strong but true.
I wrote my books My Privates are Private and Genius with a Penis, Don’t Touch specifically for parents and kids to break the ice when dealing with this difficult subject matter. It is written in an easy limerick form to help kids remember the importance of telling someone – and it certainly makes a hard subject easier to talk about.
Don’t be scared, have the talk, over and over until they get it. It might not ever stop sexual abuse, but it may stop you child from becoming a victim – or a repeat-victim because he/she knew to tell to someone.
Wake up and smell the coffee, talk to your kids, it’s a conversation that can never get old.
Stacey Honowitz is a Supervisor in the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit of the State Attorneys Office in Fort Lauderdale Florida. She is responsible for investigating, indicting and prosecuting cases involving child molestation, sexual battery and all cases of physical abuse and neglect involving children. She is often seen on television as a legal analyst for CNN, Headline News and has appeared on Dateline NBC, CBS News 48 Hours, Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Tonight, as well as being on air with Larry King Live for seven years. She is a frequent guest lecturer and has authored two childrens books, My Privates are Private and Genius with a Penis, Dont Touch which help parents and kids break the ice about discussing the delicate subject matter of sexual abuse. She can be contacted via www.staceyhonowitz.com, or via twitter @staceyhonowitz.