3 Steps To Protect Our Children | BTR.ORG

3 Steps to Protect Our Children

by | Abuse Literacy, Parenting

Women suffering from the effects of betrayal trauma and relational abuse come to BTR.ORG concerned about their children’s safety.

No one wants to see their children suffer, but after being a victim to the one person they should be able to trust, women wonder how they can keep their children safe when trust is so easily violated.

Women Can Empower Their Children To Have Strong Boundaries

At BTR, we believe that boundaries are a powerful action step that women can take in protecting themselves and their children from abusive behavior. 

As women teach their children how to set and maintain appropriate boundaries, children are then able to lead healthier lives. Should a questionable and/or abusive encounter occur, children who have been taught strong boundaries are more likely to reach out for help.

Keeping Kids Safe When You’re In Betrayal Trauma

It may seem impossible to protect anyone else when you have been so deeply violated by your spouse or partner, but Kimberly Perry, author of Say “NO!” and TELL! A Creative View of Personal Safety for Maisie and Daxton, says that:

Grown-ups need to empower kids with Personal Safety early because kids develop a natural curiosity about the human body when they are young.

Kimberly Perry, author

It’s Never Too Early, It’s Never Too Late

Whether your children are babies or teens, it’s not too early or too late for you to begin the process of empowering them through knowledge about their bodies and personal boundaries. 

Don’t despair if the abuse in your life and the resulting trauma has made it difficult for you to teach your children these principles: jump in now, and let your children know that they can and must set personal boundaries to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse.

3 Steps To Staying Safe

As courageous women triumph over trauma and teach these three steps to their children, children are empowered to protect their own bodies and to tell if a boundary is breached. 

  1. Teach body awareness with basic hygiene (bathing), health (nutrition) and safety (swim) concepts
  2. Explains boundaries with more unique safety concepts such as Internet, stranger and people safety.
  3. Introduce Personal Safety – prevention awareness of safe boundaries for private parts.

For more information, listen to the podcast or read the full transcript below.

BTR.ORG Supports Victims of Sexual Abuse

At BTR, we understand how difficult it is to find safe people who understand the trauma of sexual abuse. Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions are available to you – attend a session today and begin your journey to peace. 

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. 

Today I have Kimberly Perry, author of Say No and Tell A Creative View of Personal Safety for Maisie (that’s the girl’s version) and Daxton (for boys). After teaching personal safety to over 1000 elementary school students, she was inspired to write the Say No and Tell book series. Welcome, Kimberly.

Kimberly (03:34):
Thank you, Anne for having me.

Anne (03:35):
So I have these two books and I’ve used them with my sons and my daughter, and I am so honored to have you here today because these books are incredible for helping children. So Kimberly, why did you decide to write a book about personal safety for young kids?

Inspired After Discovering The Heartbreaking Statistics On Ever-Increasing Instances Of Child Sexual Abuse

Kimberly (03:56):
My reason for writing the book is twofold – statistics and the training and teaching experience I’ve had. First, while I was serving as a health and physical education teacher in the Michigan Public School system, I taught a unit called Personal Safety to over a thousand elementary students. And I wondered why I had not been taught these prevention strategies when I was a child. Personal safety essentially means sexual abuse, prevention of a child. Sexual abuse is twofold. It can be physical sexual abuse, which most of us think of when we hear that term. It can also be non-physical sexual abuse, which is what a child might see, such as pornography or what a child might hear, which would be inappropriate language about private parts from a grownup to a child.

The statistics were shocking to me. How can it be that at least two out of every 10 girls and one out of every 10 boys are estimated to be sexually abused before their 14th birthday? According to Child Protective Services, every eight minutes they respond to a sexual abuse report. And according to the CDC, about one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. So with my experience of teaching these children and seeing the statistics, I developed this passion to wanna share the message of personal safety for grownups and kids and families so they can be empowered to prevent this tragedy.

What Is Personal Safety?

Anne (05:19):
This is a wonderful thing that you’re doing. I live in Utah and right now they’re doing a public service campaign with billboards and Facebook groups where you learn more about child sexual abuse. This is on everybody’s radar right now, especially those of us with children. It’s so important to make sure our kids are prepared for this. So what is personal safety?

Kimberly (05:41):
Personal safety essentially is learning how to keep your body safe. Some might call it body safety. In the educational world as an educator, the term often is called personal safety, which is a little more all encompassing. Like I mentioned earlier. It’s not just the physical body abuse, it’s the non-physical, which includes pornography and can be a grooming technique that a predator may use to groom a child into child sexual abuse. Basically with personal safety, kids learn to say no to unsafe touches by protecting their bodies with boundaries to prevent or stop sexual abuse. For instance, these say no and tell books, empower the kids with personal safety by using a three phased approach based on a proven and a straightforward sequential method that I developed after teaching these 1000 kids so that I could make it user-friendly for a grownup to read with a child.

Body Awareness and Boundaries 

Phase one is you teach body awareness. We all know that kids get very curious early on about their bodies. You can teach them about hygiene and bathing, health and safety for like swimming. Phase two would be explaining boundaries with more unique safety concepts such as internet safety, stranger safety, and just general people safety. And then the third phase is when you introduce personal safety, the prevention awareness of safe boundaries specifically for private parts.

Anne (07:08):
That’s fantastic. My ex is physically abusive, grabs them, pushes them, that sort of thing. And I’ve been able to tailor it to their needs as well. And I think that’s what’s really cool about these books is as a parent, I am able to use it to meet my kids where they are and to teach them these concepts that I think apply to a variety of personal safety issues, sexual abuse, of course included in that, but in my case also physical abuse and emotional abuse. So I’m really grateful that this gives such great examples. And then the concepts are applicable to a multitude of situations for kids’ safety.

Boundaries Help Protect Our Children From Sexual Abuse

Kimberly (07:50):
And I am so delighted to hear you say that. I’m telling you, it warms my heart. Because this book is meant to be a toolkit as an educator, I have layered it for the counselor, for the parent, for the educator, for the adult that works in a youth organization because I want you to be able to tailor it to what you need, your family values, your family terminology, and your story so that you can change your story and move and shift in the direction of a healthy, safe, protective future for your kids. So for instance, you were talking about just abuse in general. Well, boundaries is one of those concepts. Boundaries defines our personal property and it allows us to take care of it by setting limits on others and internal limits within ourselves. So we teach our kids self-control. That would be an example of an internal limit.

The boundary of saying no defines ownership. It lets others know that we exist apart from them and that we are in control. So whether that be emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, boundaries are really important so that we know where we begin and someone else ends within the book. There are three parts basically. Part one is the story where Maisie and Axton in their own separate books embark on a journey of growing up and their bodies change and they prepare to migrate the parents, teach them personal safety before they go. And throughout you’ll see open-ended questions where as a grownup you can define your terminology, your values, and make it your own. You can pick and choose what it is you feel your child is ready to hear, depending on what age. Part two of the book has eight scenarios in which I researched the predator and I turn those tactics that I found into life skills for kids so that we go on the offensive and not just be defensive.

How to Talk to Children About Secrets 

And so some of these examples of the scenarios are privacy, private moments, guarding your eyes and your ears. What is a safe secret versus an unsafe secret? What is a bribe, a threat, what is a safe game, et cetera. And then finally, the third section has solutions with a numerous tools. There’s a quiz, a personal safety family plan, there’s resources, and then there’s a removable section for grownups that have all kinds of statistics as well. As I go into greater detail of the three phase steps, which we spoke about earlier, that gives you practical ideas of how do I talk to my kid about body awareness? What do I say

Anne (10:21):
I loved when I got to the safe secrets part because we have a rule in our family that is our family has no secrets. We call things for birthdays or other presents, stuff like that. We call those fun surprises. So when I got to that section in your book, I was able to say, there are no secrets. We only have safe surprises. So I changed the wording there to match our own families terminology of what I’ve been using for years. And it was so validating to be able to share that in a book with my kids. ’cause I hadn’t seen that in a book. So that was really cool.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition 

Kimberly (10:52):
And Anne, you picked up on one of the themes throughout the book and you’ll notice the repetition, which in my training as an educator, that repetition is important for our brain so that we memorize, you’ll see over and over again tell and keep telling until it stops. And it might seem overdone, but for the child for it to, to become a part of what they know to do. Because when there is a questionable encounter or something that it can be possibly traumatizing, our amygdala kicks in and we’re in this fight or flight. And it’s really nice to know that this simple keep telling until it stops. These kinds of slogans can pop into their minds and help them to move into action. 

It’s Never Too Early, It’s Never Too Late 

Anne (11:28):
That’s great. So in your books, you urge parents to talk to their young children about personal safety from a very early age. And some parents may worry that telling their kids about personal safety means they have to tell them about sex too early. So what is the best age to begin talking to a child about body safety?

Kimberly (11:46):
As I get involved more and more with this movement to protect kids and to end exploitation, there seems to be a consensus that it’s not too young to begin around preschool through the elementary ages. So ages three to nine, particularly when you notice a child becoming curious about the body and about gender differences, which can be very early on and is a natural part of developing body awareness. It’s really key to affirm this stage and phase that it’s not a shameful thing. It’s a beautiful thing. And when you emphasize the boundaries rather than the reproduction of the purpose of private parts, then you can stay within that area of preserving the innocence and using wisdom to balance that naivety.

“If they don’t feel like having a hug, they don’t have to have a hug” 

Focusing on boundaries, safe touches, which feel comfortable telling them your body belongs to you. It’s okay to say no thank you to any touches, whether it’s a safe touch or especially an unsafe touch. If they don’t feel like having a hug, they don’t have to have a hug. That way they’re knowing that they’re in charge of their body and also that privacy is okay as they start to feel like maybe they’re becoming more independent, then they can learn about having privacy. And specifically only safe caregivers may see, examine or clean private parts while you’re really young and you still need help. But once you become independent, you can do those things on your own and have privacy.

Anne (13:12):
Yeah, I have found that three is not too young. My children are able to talk about things. It’s really cute. ’cause My two year old right now, she calls a penis a peanut. ’cause She can’t quite talk <laugh>. And so she’ll say, mom, where’s my peanut? And I’ll say, you don’t have a penis because you’re a girl. You know? And she’ll be like, oh, ’cause she’s seen her brothers, her brother’s four. 

Children Are Curious: Open Communication Is Key

That’s cute. Okay. yeah, so I think trying teaching the real anatomical words. The other thing I think is really funny, and I appreciate it about your book, is that my sons hate mermaids because they’re immodest <laugh>. And my seven year old is like, mom, I do not know who invented mermaids. They are ridiculous. They only have those shells for breast covers. <Laugh>, they <laugh>, they’re so immodest. Whoever invented those is just ridiculous. I do not like them. So I think that’s cute that they can talk about when they feel uncomfortable about things that are immodest or they, they have the words to be able to describe their discomfort or their curiosity, which I think is really important for kids.

Kimberly (14:16):
And that’s another important key in the book is teaching kids about their instincts, that uhoh feeling that’s deep down in their belly and learning, encouraging them to learn to trust that. And that is something that’s letting them know that something is not right and they need to talk to somebody and tell them and get help. You also wanna note that this book does not cover reproduction, which is saved for an age appropriate time at your discretion.

Four Steps When Kids Are Exposed to a Questionable Encounter

Anne (14:40):
Even though these books don’t cover reproduction, there are other age appropriate books that do, that I use with my children and other books that talk specifically about pornography or other issues that I use with my children. So I appreciate about these, that it talks specifically about the unsafe touching and that I can apply that to the different situations because talking to kids is so important. What do parents need to know when they’re teaching their children what to do when they’re exposed to a questionable encounter?

Kimberly (15:09):
The simplest way I boiled it down to was four steps. Say, no, get away, tell and keep telling. And I developed a jingle that the kids can memorize that has a rhyme to it. So the rhyme goes, remember to say, no, get away if you can tell someone and keep telling until it stops. Take a stand. And that last part is really important because oftentimes kids statistics show will often share with a friend that’s their age or they seldom tell. And so even if it is reported, it doesn’t mean that it’s always reported to the right person that can stop it. With that, I encourage the grownup to ask themselves, how would you like to have a peace of mind when your child is away from you or out of your site? The way that we can go about that is developing a personal safety family plan.

Practical Tips for Your Child’s Safety 

I do offer this as a complimentary download at my website www.weandguard.com. It basically covers five areas and it’s just one page. Personal safety family plan is something you wanna keep accessible in the kitchen and a certain drawer or on the fridge or a photocopy in their binder. So they always have it and it includes these kinds of things. You wanna make sure your child has their address memorized in their phone number. You’ll want to develop a family code word for danger. For instance, if your child is at a play date or an overnight sleepover and they can check in with you and say whatever word you have would be the code for come pick me up. Things are not going great. And it is also important to develop some kind of check-in rule of at a certain time or you text each other just to see how it’s going when they’re away from you.

“It’s not just about strangers” 

It’s also important that kids know how to dial 9 1 1 and you want to explain to them who the safe caregivers and the trusted grownups are in your lives and choose five of them where you write their name and you write their phone numbers. And this is a real important dis distinguishing point on this family’s safety plan. If anyone ever tries an unsafe touch, whether it’s physical or non-physical, that person is no longer safe. That’s an important time to tell whether it’s somebody you know or you don’t know, or you thought this someone was safe. Well, they were until they tried that.

Anne (17:37):
Yep. I talked to my children about that quite a bit. It’s not just about strangers. Statistically speaking, a child is more likely to be abused by someone they know than by a stranger.

Kimberly (17:49):
Yeah. 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser, and that’s according to darkness to light. Yeah.

“I know that we’re going to be able to help a lot of kids” 

Anne (17:56):
Making sure that kids are safe from strangers and being abducted is super important, but 90% of the time, <laugh>, it’s going to be someone they know. So talking about how to determine whether someone is safe and if they seem safe and then become unsafe. Those are important things to talk about. I’m so grateful for Kimberly for being here today. 

Kimberly (18:15):
Thank you. I really enjoyed it and I’m so encouraged that this message of personal safety is being shared and I, I know that we’re gonna be able to help a lot of kids and keep them safe.

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