Some of you might know that I worked for a non-profit for a while that dealt with child sex-trafficking. While working at Shared Hope International, I learned all sorts of disturbing facts and heard horrible stories. I remember specifically talking to a father who was searching for his 14 year old after she was abducted. He had learned that his daughter was in a trafficking ring, but the FBI had not been able to locate her. I learned that America has a trafficking problem and between 100,000 to 300,000 kids (not foreign but domestic US born children) are being trafficked. I learned that the average age of a girl going into prostitution is 11 to 14 years old. I learned enough to make me have nightmares and quit sleeping.
After about a year, I gave up my position at Shared Hope because I wanted to spend more time with my own daughters, especially because they are at vulnerable ages.
Working at Shared Hope opened my eyes to the number of women who have been abused or molested. Statistics show that at least 1 in 4 women have had some sort of abuse. I consider myself fortunate in that I never experienced what many women have experienced, but it brings to mind that I have 3 daughters and I want to protect them.
Here are some measures that Stephen and I use to protect our girls.
1) From an early age, we talked to our girls about appropriate touch. We asked them to tell us if anyone ever made them feel funny and we listened to our girls. If they didn’t like someone, we didn’t make them spend time with that person, especially alone. We worked hard at keeping our girls in groups. Isolation with an adult makes a child more vulnerable.
2) Our girls rarely do overnights. This does not make us popular at times, but after working at camp for five years and hearing stories from teenagers about things that went on during overnights; we agreed to nix the overnights unless we absolutely knew the parents and fully trusted them to protect our girls. I am always surprised at the number of parents that freely let their children spend the night at someone’s home without meeting the parents. Before you let your kids spend the night, consider who lives in the house. Are there older brothers? Boyfriends? We always ask. Statistics say the most vulnerable girl is one with a mom who has a boyfriend.
When it comes to protecting children, I don’t worry about offending the adult. The bottom line is that if I don’t know you, my child isn’t going to hang with you.
3) Many girls, who are abused, have been abused by a family member. Ok… this is a hard one, but just because they are your relative doesn’t mean you have to trust them with your children. I absolutely love my family, but I am cautious. Do I sound paranoid? Look at the statistics. Moms listen to your children and listen to your gut, even when it comes to family.
4) Friends. We talk about friends a lot and making good choices. Julia once told me about a friend who was sneaking out at night. OK…. Here is another statistic that I shared with her. 24 hours after a girl runs away or sneaks away she becomes vulnerable prey to traffickers. Bus stations, train stations, malls and city centers are hubs for traffickers trying to befriend young teens. The father that I referred to in the beginning believes his daughter snuck out with a friend and the friend was associated with the trafficker. Yikes!
5) Empowerment. Our girls know that they deserve respect. I remember when Julia was in the first grade and a boy said something very inappropriate to her. It would have been easy to ignore, but Dad called the school and hooked up a meeting with the teacher. The boy was disciplined and wrote Julia an apology. Just recently, on the way home from youth group, my husband came down on one of the guys we were taking to youth group for making a “sexist” remark to Julia. Stephen pulled the car over and kindly said (in his 6’3” demeanor), “you will not speak this way to my daughter, ever! Do I make myself clear?” He agreed. After the boy left the car, Julia thanked Stephen for saying something. My husband’s response was, “Julia, you’re a princess and guys need to treat you with respect. That boy will now go to school and tell all his friends not to mess with you.” She laughed and agreed.
Well that is how we have protected our girls in the Jones home. Hopefully it works and my girls won’t divulge some horrific story one day. At least my prayer is that God will protect their innocence.
Do you have any great ideas for protecting your kids? Please share. I would love to hear other ideas too.
Specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy
Life, Family, Faith and Travel...the life of a Jones
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