I was reading the newspaper the other day when I came across an horrific article about a four month old baby and her seven year old brother who were raped in Ceres recently and with tears in my eyes put the paper down. My seven year old niece, playing on the carpet, looked up and asked me why I was crying. I looked at her and realised that I had no words. What words do you use to describe an act so horrific? How do you explain rape to a child who doesn’t even know the concept of sex yet? Even more importantly, WHY is this happening to children who don’t even know the concept of sex yet? HOW do we protect our children?
How do we protect our children from random psychotic strangers hell-bent on snatching them? Watch them 24/7? Every time I go out with my niece I keep a watchful eye on her and any stranger who dares to even look at her funny gets an earful. She’s a gorgeous child and gets a lot of attention with strangers coming up to us and telling us how beautiful she is but how do know you which random stranger is a potential child rapist? You don’t. So you smile sweetly, say thank you, hold her tightly and move along. One doesn’t want to be paranoid but these dangers exist as we are all well aware.
There have been times where I’ve taken my eye off her for mere seconds and she’s disappeared. Have you ever lost a child in a busy shopping centre on a Saturday morning? Your heart literally stops beating, your mouth goes dry and you just start screaming their name. You have security running around looking for them with you and other shoppers are frantically asked if they’ve seen a child. It’s a literal waking nightmare. Thankfully she’s always appeared, quite innocently and quite confused as to why I’m bellowing her name and why other shoppers are also calling her. The tears that follow are ones of relief on my part but how would I protect her from some-one who decided to snatch her in those seconds?
We have security and panic buttons installed in our home as well as big, scary bull-terriers in our garden to guard against people attempting to break in. What more must one do to protect our children against rapists who break in to your home at night?
Protecting our children from strangers who may rape and hurt them is not so easy. When my younger sister who is a pre-school teacher held a safety class recently and asked her class of 4 to 5yr olds what a stranger was, not one of them could answer correctly. Some of the answers included a ‘big huge scary monster’ and “that guy from Spongebob”. When she pointed to a picture of a woman and asked them who that was, the answer was “A pretty lady”. A picture of a man elicited answers of “just a guy” and “A daddy”. How do you protect kids when they don’t even KNOW what a stranger is? We have managed to explain to our seven year old what a stranger is but how do I rationalize with her that it’s okay for me to talk to the random woman in the queue at Foschini but it’s not okay for her?
I’m not saying live a life of paranoia, seeing rapists on every corner but we need to be vigilant with our children. Don’t let them play outside without supervision. Don’t let them go on sleep-overs with people we don’t know. Don’t leave them alone for ANY amount of time when we’re out with them. Don’t let them out of our sight when we’re at a crowded beach or park. Even in a restaurant with a play-area, keep an eye on them. Anybody can just walk into a play area at almost any restaurant. Who’s going to stop them? Who is protecting our children against rapists? WE are, as parents and as a family.
Of course Stranger-danger is just one of our worries. Most rape-cases of children are perpetrated by people we know. I’m not going to quote statistics because this is not about numbers, it’s about children. People we know. Hmm, who would that be then? Children are raped by their uncles, their fathers friends, their own fathers, their Grandfathers, teachers, friends of older siblings, older siblings of friends, their Sunday-school teachers, the pastors in the church etc. How do we protect our children against their caregivers or their teachers? How do we tell our children they can’t have sleep-overs because their little friends have older brothers who might be a rapist? How do we protect our children against our brothers? How do we protect our children against our own fathers and husbands?
How do we protect our children?