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As a culture, we tend to worry about our girls a lot more than our boys. While many of the women I know have stories, so do the men.
You might already know that my story starts before I was born, when a male member of my family spent a lot of time playing at the neighbor’s house…but it wasn’t safe play. It was sexual abuse.
This was 40 years ago, in an affluent neighborhood in Oakland, California, USA. It’s safe and beautiful with big houses. I looked it up recently, and those houses now sell for a million dollars each.
That boy grew up and, as a young teen, did what had been done to him. He found younger less powerful children to play out his sexual curiosity. Me. My best friend. Another boy in the family.
For whatever reason, the two girls in this story lead relatively normal lives. We went to therapy. We grew up. We had relationships. We finished our education and had careers. We got married and had kids. We’re ok.
But not the boys. Both boys from my family struggled with relationships their whole lives. Neither ever had a significant other. Neither got married or had kids. They finished their education and both have careers, yes, but both were labeled “sexual predators”. The older one has a sealed file, since all this went down when he was a minor. The younger boy was convicted on child pornography charges a few years ago.
That neighbor boy? Last I heard he was an alcoholic, in and out of jail.
So, yes, protect the girls, but please! please! protect the boys.
The stats are 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 12 boys will be sexually abused. I understand why that makes us focus on the girls…but, at least in my family, the effects were much more severe for the boys.
These parents all assumed their kids were safe, and then watched their troubled lives unfold. Here’s a study on the links between childhood sexual abuse and later criminal offenses.
I don’t want that to be you or your son.
There are lots of things we can do to prevent sexual abuse. Do a quick search and you’ll find lots of suggestions. However, it’s not usually tailored to protecting boys.
But there are things we should be doing differently, and specifically, for boys.
For example, did you know that female child molesters rarely abuse girls? While it’s true that most child molesters are male, women commit up to 40% of offenses reported against boys.
Let’s apply that to everyday life: If you have a female babysitter, who’s at greater risk, your son or daughter? That’s right. Your son.
What can you do about that? Discuss body boundary rules. Have a poster up in your child’s bedroom or bathroom. Show it to the babysitter and ask for her help with enforcing these rules. Now she knows that you’re a family that talks, and she’s not going to get away with any transgressions, innocent or otherwise. That’s proactive and protective.
We don’t have to feel helpless in the face of these statistics. There’s a lot we can do to prevent sexual abuse.
In support of you,
P.S. Wondering about a specific situation in your family? I’d love to help! Jump on my calendar here for a free consultation.
P.S.S. Here’s a list of 7 things you can do to prevent child sexual abuse. How many can your family check off?