Areas to Consider Safety
The following safety points are suggestions only . These will need to be adapted to fit your child/teen and individual family situation. Your local library, school counselor, mental health counselor, teacher, and doctor are other sources of information as you plan how to have safety talks with your child.
- If possible, get recommendations from friends, family, and neighbors.
- Ask for references.
- Plan ahead.
- Interview several prospective sitters personally and observe their interaction with your children.
- Ask your children whether or not they like and trust the babysitter and what activities took place during your time away.
- Ask potential caregiver agencies if all employees have gone through a background check and have been trained in preventing child abuse.
- Ask if the caregivers can be seen by others at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver.
- It is important to be aware of extended family members and friends of in-home child care providers who may have access to your child.
You can also check with Child Care Information Service in Salem at (503) 585-2491.
- Children should be supervised at all times by someone old enough to understand safety risks.
- Children should particularly be supervised around older kids. Close to 50% of offenders are other children or teens.
- Children should not walk anywhere alone, should not wait for the school bus alone, or even play in the yard alone if it borders a street or area where an offender could have access.
- If you hear rumors or concerns about a person, do not allow unsupervised contact between your child and that person. This includes family members.
- Do not assume if someone possibly offended years ago they will no longer offend. Some offenders sexually abuse several generations of children over a period of time, all because family members did not take the “rumors” seriously.
- Do not send your child into public bathrooms alone until he or she is old enough to call out for help if needed.
- If your son is getting too old to go into the women’s bathroom with you, stand near the men’s bathroom doorway so you can hear your child.
This gives the clear message to potential offenders: The child inside is being closely supervised and is not a good target.
If you are considering a roommate and you have children:
- Check online at http://sexoffenders.oregon.gov OR Call the Oregon State Police at (503) 378-3725 x 4431 to determine whether the person may be a registered sex offender. Remember, however, that he or she may not be registered. An offender must be convicted in order to be registered.
- Do not assume that you will always be able to provide supervision between your roommate and your children. He or she could have access when you use the bathroom, shower, run out to your car to get items, etc.
Do not use drugs or allow drug users into your home or around your children. The more people your children are exposed to, the more risks they face of being abused. Many offenders count on a parent’s unavailability due to drug use in order to gain access to children
If there is pornography in your home, your children may eventually find it because children are very curious. Not to mention, pornography is easily found in the internet. Thus, supervision of children’s internet access is critical. Additionally, there may be a connection between children’s/teen’s exposure to pornography and the touching of younger kids.
Child pornography is against the law and is a form of child abuse.
Remember that sex offenders trick families and communities as well as kids. Learn to recognize red-flag behaviors and to confront any questionable behavior.
- Pay attention to any uneasy feelings you may have about a person. Many caregivers of child abuse victims report that they had an uneasy feeling about a person, but decided that they were over-reacting. Later, they learned that the person had offended their child.
- Remember that kids cannot protect themselves against offenders, they depend on their caregivers to keep them safe.
Know who the registered sex offenders are in your neighborhood by checking online at http://sexoffenders.oregon.gov/. You can also call the Oregon State Police at (503) 378-3725 x. 4431 to get a list of offenders in your zip code.
Remember, however, that sex offenders only have a three percent chance of getting caught. Consequently, they commit an average of 120 separate crimes before they are apprehended. In addition, fewer than five percent of child victims tell anyone. Therefore, not all offenders will be registered.
Careful supervision is important.
Get comfortable doing regular safety/prevention talks with your children. Have a safety talk at least once every two to three months that includes personal safety/touching rules. As kids get older, include safety about Internet use, drug awareness, choking behaviors, cutting behavior, and dating safety/domestic violence. School counselors are a good resource for ideas on how to talk to your kids and what the current safety issues are in your area. Attend any parent workshops the school may offer on safety. Along with this, be present at any prevention education talks the school gives to classrooms so you can use the same language and do follow-up education.
Asking kids safety questions/screening for abuse
Children keep the secret of child sexual abuse for many reasons. To the child, the reasons are good ones. Some children do not tell because they are not asked.
- Besides having regular safety talks, make it a habit to check in with your kids after any overnight visits with friends, any camp outs, or other events.
- Know where your child will be going and whom they will be with.
- Check in on them while they are away.
- When they return, ask if anything different or unusual happened.
- Provide opportunities for children to tell and plan to stay calm if your child reports something.
Darkness to Light includes steps and education for adults to assist in protecting children.
With more resources and education, parents and other caregivers are becoming more comfortable and able to have safety talks with their children. However, many are not aware of the importance of talking to their preteens and teens, about the risks of sexually touching younger children. With the advent of the Internet and easy access to pornography, youth sometimes reenact what they have seen online by sexually touching younger children.
- Warn your children that to touch other kids in this way is sexual abuse and is a crime. Tell them that they could be arrested through the Juvenile Court System for such a choice.
- Consider carefully before you give permission for your preteen or teen son to provide childcare for younger children.
Sometimes there are no signs that a child is being or has been abused. But some children let us know by their behaviors that they are not okay. There is no set of behaviors that can be used to diagnose child sexual abuse. Nonetheless, behavior difficulties can be a clue to other problems besides abuse. The best way for us to know if abuse has happened is if children tell us.
However, changes in behaviors, particularly if they are sudden, should be a red flag and a signal for parents to inquire and check in with kids.
Some examples of red-flag behaviors include:
- Unusual sexual knowledge and/or interest in sexual acts
- Fear of someone or someplace
- Ongoing sleep disturbance
- School difficulties
- Self-harm and risk-taking choices
It is important for caregivers to plan ahead how they might respond if their child discloses abuse. Disclosure is usually a process for children, not a one-time event. Therefore, children may “test the waters” to see if you can handle what they might say. Children might begin with a vague statement such as “I don’t like our neighbor.” It is up to you to let your child know that you want to hear more and that you can handle hearing anything your child wants to tell you.
Remember that your job is to be an approachable, calm and supportive parent.
You are not a trained investigator. If your child makes a disclosure, it is okay to ask a few clarifying open questions, but refrain from asking too many questions. It is also important that you report the concerns to the child abuse hotline at (503) 378-6704 or call your local law enforcement agency right away.
You do not need to know for sure that the abuse happened in order to report.
It is the job of specially trained professionals to determine what may have happened.
Monitor your children’s Internet access carefully. It is best to have the computer in a high-traffic area and for parents to check children’s online history regularly. Online, youth may encounter explicit material, child pornography and sexual predators, graphic images of violence, information about offensive or illegal activities, etc.
- Inform yourself of the risks by reading materials and attending any available trainings.
- Develop family rules around Internet use.
Learn more about ways to protect your children through internet safety with iRespect&Protect.
Darkness to Light
Darkness to Light includes steps and education for adults to assist in protecting children.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides an array of services targeted to find missing children, prevent children abductions, and educate how to keep our children safe.
Visit Missing and Exploited Children
National Children’s Advocacy Center
The National Children’s Advocacy Center focuses on child abuse response and prevention through education and trainings.
Visit National Children’s Advocacy Center
Family Online Safety Institute
The Family Online Safety Institute focuses on ensuring the online world becomes safer for children and their families through policy, research, and events.
Visit Family Online Safety Institute
The Atlantic provides a comprehensive list of ways to stay safe on the internet.
NetSmartz is a program that provides online safety education through videos, games, worksheets, and other related resources.
GetNetWise provides information for internet users on safety tips to keep in mind.
SafeKids provides resources about online safety for parents to keep their children safe while navigating the internet.
This platform offers digital privacy protections while also including identity verification to keep student’s personal information secure.
Web Wise Kids
Web Wise Kids provides multiple interactive programs that are targeted to educate about online safety.