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September 20, 2005

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Blake Lyons

Tessie,no problem. Bring all the little darlings to come live close to mo and me. Mom would kill me if I let anything happen to the little nippers while I was on watch and she would kill anyone who tried to hurt them while she was on watch.

Next Problem.??

Tammy

Oh Tess......

So often I think of this very subject. And each time I am overcome with chills by the thought of such danger lurking around every corner.

Our world now is so different than that of 30 years ago.

I worry that I will over-shelter Brody for fear of such things happening. And I worry of such things happening if I don't over-shelter him.

In the end, I know that I must use the wisdom that God has given me to prepare him for the world and trust that God's hand will always be on him. I also know that prayer is our best defense.

I love you and the darlings so much.

joeinvegas

The nicest things about little kids is how they talk to anyone (well, at least some of them not too shy). I love it when I'm in a bookstore and some little girl starts talking about the book she is going to pick out - until her mom comes and takes her away from the strange man. Please don't wrap the kids up too much. As you said, it's usually one they know.

Jane

I have a problem with the extreme that was taken to teach children of my age (early 30s) that if that ominous stranger ever did anything to you that you did not like then you were to immediately tell mommy and daddy.

I remember being in 4th grade and watching a stranger danger movie where the kind next door neighbor lifts the little girl onto the counter and then proceeds to molest her. She tells her mother and all is well again.

That movie was the moment that I realized that part of my life was all wrong. My mother knew I was being molested by a relative at age 2; she did not know it had continued. (I found this out many years later). All signs indicate it probably began when I was an infant. I had no clue what was happening was wrong because it was normal life to me. By the time I learned the truth the molester was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and was no longer a threat.

And for 15 more years I lived alone with the guilt, because the movie said I should tell and I didn't. I was so sure I was guilty for not knowing, and then for not telling when I did know, because I didn't. I was aware of it but never spoke of it until I was in college.

My totally unsolicited advice that I feel compelled to spread everywhere is that the important thing is to make your children know there is not a burden to properly handle. I don't know that I know what the exact solution is, as we certainly want children to tell. But I would have been too ashamed to tell even if the man molesting me had not been ill; i had made a mistake, hadn't followed the rules, hadn't seen him as a bad man. In fact I moved from one molester to another and even when I was 18 and first spoke of it the words barely came. I was 21 when I told anyone for real and much of that is because of how I was told I should have handled it (my intrepration as a 9 year old). When I first told I cried and cried over the guilt, rather than for the loss.

I hope this makes sense. It's not the easiest topic to formulate thoughts around.

Mandy

Tess - As with any mother, this is a subject that terrifies and enrages me. After watching a newscast 30 minute newscast one evening during which there were 5 stories about child molestation, rape, etc I felt an overwhelming urge to create a compound where my daughter would be safe...only to acknowledge that it might be the security officer who'd be the problem.

I asked my husband that night "How do I teach her what to look for without scaring the hell out of her?" He said, "maybe by trying not to be terrified ourselves, just educated, aware...and enrolled in a self defense class."

*sigh* I know we're all going to do our best to teach/warn/protect and then pray with all our might that the information is never needed.

Jane - I just want to send a huge hug your way. None of it was your fault, including the not telling. I read your comment and could hear my mother's voice "I'd kill anyone who touched you that way." Not exactly the best tactic either...as is so often said, it is usually someone we know and someone we feel wrong about mistrusting (as kids).

Maggs

It pains me that I can't protect my daughter from everything...

Jody

Tess,

Stranger-danger books are pretty much considered out of date and dangerous by folks who study these things. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children says outright that stranger-danger education doesn't work, for exactly the reasons that you describe. There are other books, and other approaches, and you should look into them.

The number-one approach for now seems to be: teach your kids to trust their gut. If something feels funny, whether it's Uncle Bob or the nice grocery store bagger or whatever, make noise. Find Mommy, Daddy, or someone reliable. But most of all, trust your gut. Pay attention to your own inner voice. Because most of the time, kids have pretty good instincts for what's safe for them.

The trade-off, if there is one, is that Moms and Dads have to give up forcing their kids to "give Grampa Bob a hug" or "come out from behind me and say hello to Cousin Joyce." Because kids can't trust their "I don't know about this person" instincts unless they're allowed to follow them everywhere, and all the time.

Which can make for some awkward family reunions, if you have clingy kids.

Real point being: if stranger danger seems absurd to you, that's because it is. Find another book.

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