That Slumber Party Might Not Be Worth It

(Certain words in this post have been altered to prevent google search engines from picking up this article.)

Recently, some things have come up involving friends that have led to my desire to write about something very personal, something I have absolutely no desire to share with the world, but something I feel, and hope, might give parents something to think about and, perhaps, protect someone eles’s child.

Without going into too much detail, two friends of ours have recently had experiences within their own families involving s_xual prpetration.  In both cases, an older sibling prpetrated a younger sibling and in at least one case, prpetrated another child who was spending the night in their home.

The horrible reality is that this kind of stuff happens all too often – perhaps more often than parents even want to think about.  How do I know?  Because it happened to me.  Once before the age of six, and again before the age of ten, I spent the night with someone who coerced me into s_xual activities.  In one case, it was a female friend and in another case it was the older sister of a friend.  At the age of 12, I was f_ndled by a distant adult relative while in a room full of other adults.  Later during the week, my parents allowed me to spend the night with this man’s younger sister (he was at home during the time.)  I’m thankful that nothing happened to me that night, but I can’t help but wonder about another child, who slept in the same bed with him that night.

I’ve never considered what happened to me “m_lestation” (although my husband, who works in a psychiatric hospital with underage s_x-offenders, tells me this is exactly what it was.)  And although I can look back and see some things about myself that are probably directly related to these experiences, I don’t feel I have any gaping wounds or major emotional issues stemming from this (my husband might disagree.)  And, as is usually the case, I never told anyone about it.  EVER.  Until I told my husband, just a few days ago.  In truth, I hadn’t even thought about it for years until recently, as we’ve been praying about and discussing the situation with our friends.

I write this for one reason: as a warning to other parents.  The other day, I overheard a mother talking with someone about the sleepover her daughter was going to, and I felt sick to my stomach.  It made me think of how many parents trust their little ones to sleep over at someone else’s house without their supervision.  How many parents trust the relationships they have with another parent to be a protective umbrella for their own children?

My parents knew the parents of the girls I spent the night with.  They trusted these parents to protect me.  They trusted the sons and daughters of these parents.  But it happened.  Perhaps because of these experiences, and because of things my husband experienced and has been witness to in his own life, Jon and I take the position of No Trust.

Call it sad, call it reactionary, call it over-the-top… call it what you will, but we will do everything within our power to prevent our children from ever being m_lested.  If it means they never experience a sleepover, there are worse things in life that can happen to them.  If it means they’ll never (during their childhood years) have an unsupervised day out with an uncle or cousin or a play date with an older friend, so be it.  The truth is that no matter how much we trust our family, our friends, and our children’s friends and their parents, we only have to be wrong ONCE.  We have simply made it a family rule that our children don’t have unsupervised (and by “unsupervised” I mean not supervised by Jon or I) sleepovers – period.  And they don’t have unsupervised play dates with children – boy or girl – over the age of three or four.  When friends with older children come to visit us, one of us is ALWAYS in the room where the kids are playing and none of them are ever allowed to go alone and play.  They don’t sit in the laps of men or play tickling or wrestling games with friends.  They’re not involved in boy scouts or girl scouts or clubs that would take them away from home on overnight adventures.  (And as one commenter [who was molested by an “upstanding” church member more than once WHILE INSIDE the church building] pointed out – schools, church nursery’s and Sunday school are no more “safe” than anywhere else.)  CDC research estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are s_xually abused before the age of 18.  An estimated one in 20 teenage boys and adult men s*_xually abuse children.  In most cases, it’s early exposure to s*_x through p*_rnography introduced by friends or being the victim of s*_xual abuse themselves that has led to the perpetration.  No matter how well I know a child and his/her parents, I cannot possibly know what that child has been exposed to and might expose my children to, if left unsupervised.  We’re simply not willing to trust our kids to those odds.

Some parents will read this and think that we’re being over the top, but my husband sees these horror stories EVERY SINGLE DAY.  In not one single case did any parent ever willingly put their children at risk.  In virtually every case of p*_rpetration my husband has ever seen, the abusive child and his/her parents were trusted friends, family members, classmates and neighbors.  If what happened to me could happen THREE times over the course of my pre-teenage life, each time with people my parents trusted, the odds are against our children coming out unscathed unless we, as their parents, put up the necessary barriers to protect them.***  We’re not willing to be wrong about someone we trust.

As I mentioned before, I write this extremely personal article in the hopes that parents will read this and consider the possibilities.  I write this in hopes of saving even just one child from experiencing what so many children have experienced, what could have been prevented for so many.

Please don’t think you know someone well enough to be certain that they would never harm your child.  As the Child M*_lestation Research and Prevention Institute writes:

If you are certain there has never been a child m*_lester or a m*_lested child in your family, You are probably wrong.

I’m not suggesting that everyone take the same measures we have taken, but please consider …  Is that date night with your husband worth leaving your children in the hands of a babysitter you’ve only met a few times?  Should you really trust that older boy from your church to take your son fishing?  Can you spend the night with your child, at her friend’s sleepover party, instead of dropping him or her off?  Consider the odds, and ask yourself what measures you can take to protect your kids.  It’s worth it.

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*** I don’t think avoidance is the only measure we need to take, of course.  Our children are taught (in an age-appropriate way) about s_xual abuse, and have been told what to do.  Although my own parents did an excellent job of warning me against p_rpetrators, I somehow always had in my head the image of an ADULT p*_rpetrator, someone who looked and acted evil, who told me they’d kill me if I ever told anyone.  I was prepared for someone who would try to hold me down and force me against my will.  I wasn’t prepared for the possibility of being persuaded.  We’ve made sure our children understand that certain parts of their body are only for their future spouses and that they’re completely off-limits to absolutely everyone else (with a few exceptions, like when my son had a tick in a VERY uncomfortable place!)  We’ve read passages of the bible that deal with these issues, and talk about them with our kids.  But no matter how much we talk about it, no matter how much they understand, my husband and I are convinced that the single greatest preventative measure we can take against s*_xual molestation is to keep them close.

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13 Responses to That Slumber Party Might Not Be Worth It

  1. This really makes me look at things differently when letting my girls spend the night at friends’ houses. We always felt that we were taking the right precautions: Meeting the parents, letting the parents and our children know the expectations, and taking a cell phone for them to call should any trouble arise. After reading this, I don’t think as a parent I’m doing nearly half as much as I should. I’ll be reading this over with my husband and children then discussing what our next steps will be…Thank you!

    • Rina says:

      Nikki, thank you for writing that… I wrote this this morning and then agonized over posting it all day long. I don’t think I would have, except that my husband came home and read it and encouraged me to. I’m extremely thankful that it has caused you to look at things differently – I don’t think most people understand just how prevalent this kind of thing is. My husband deals with it on a regular basis. He meets the people we hear the stories about (or sadly don’t hear the stories about) – every day. He listens to the details that led to the p*rpetration and the scenarios that allowed it to take place. It’s horrifying and its EVERYWHERE – truly everywhere (restaurants, playgrounds, schoolyards, bathrooms, bedrooms… name a place and it’s probably happened there, with someone someone else trusted.) I know that taking the position we have taken isn’t for everyone, but it’s the one we feel is the best option for keeping our children safe. I hope other parents will read this and take the measures they decide are the right ones to protect their children.

  2. Patti says:

    I don’t think you are over the top. I wish i hadn’t trusted other parents with Amber. She has been r*ped 4 times. It started when she was around 14. But the bad part is, those parents were letting their children drink and this is what it led to. She was brutally r*ped at 18 in London while modeling. This threw her into Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD and she was already Bipolar but we didn’t really know what it was until all this came about. God loans us our children for a short amount of time and it is our responsibility to see that not only they are raised right but protected. When kids came to my house, I checked on them constantly and I guess I thought other parents were like me. It always pays to be careful and alert.

    • Rina says:

      Thank you, Patti. I’m so sorry for what happened to Amber… I think if certain things weren’t in place in our own lives, we would have been just as willing to trust our children in situations we wouldn’t dream of letting them face, now. You’re right – God loans them to us for a short amount of time and we do the best we can while they’re with us.

  3. aparunak says:

    Thank you for addressing this, Rina! It’s so important, and yet we don’t hear much about it. I think it’s hard for a lot of parents to admit that they don’t trust their friends because it feels so mean. We just have a strict NO Slumber Party policy. People think we’re weird, but (hopefully) don’t get their feelings hurt.

  4. I am so happy that I’m not the only parent who feels this way. Being a survivor myself, when God blessed with me with two little girls, I knew that one of my main missions in life was to protect them from having the same experiences I did. My husband completely agrees with me but the rest of our family members think we are too overprotective, too hovering. I’d rather hover than have my girls go through the things I did. I appreciate you for being so forthright. God bless you and your family!

  5. Adrianne Melby says:

    I would hope this this also includes leaving your children alone at school or in a church nursery or in Sunday school. No adults should be allowed alone with your children either. I was molested by an “upstanding” church member and more than once in a church building. Its not just about other kids, sleep overs or play time.

    • Rina says:

      I agree 1,000% Adrianne! I didn’t even mention that in the article because it’s so far from our reality (we home church and even if we didn’t we believe children should be with US in church, not somewhere else!) Thanks for bringing this up, I’m going to see where I can add that to the article!

      • Adrianne Melby says:

        Thank you for writing this article and for including church and school as dangerous areas as well.

  6. Gwen says:

    I agree with this article 100%. Our children being surrounded by family members who have been molested themselves (on both sides), I am scared for my children. I don’t trust my children with most anyone. Our children are with us all the time and never leave our side, I love that we are blessed to have them by our side but What would you do if you needed one on one time with your husband and your marriage depended on it? Both sides have no grandmother, so, that is not an option. I know the answer would be; Is your childs safety worth it? I was wondering if there would be another solution? Comments would be appreciated ;-)

    • Rina says:

      Gwen, we DO have a (very) limited number of (female) friends who we allow to watch our children. It’s also easier for us now that we have older children because all of our kids know our rules – no child is to be alone with the adult (or with their children – all of whom are young… we don’t leave them with friends who have children over the age of 4 or 5) at any time for any reason. The younger kids all have older kids assigned to them as “buddies” so our older kids watch out for the younger (even when we go to visit as a family, we’ll often assign an older child to watch the youngers, if they’re going to be playing outside or out of my visibility range [again, this only happens with children who are younger than ours – when we visit with people who have older children, our kids aren’t allowed out of the room we’re in.]) Even so, I recognize that it’s not a full-proof system and we generally just don’t leave our kids alone with people very often. And the reality is that our need to keep our kids (extremely) close is only for a season. As they get older, things change. Older kids can stay home to watch younger kids, making the need for an outside babysitter unnecessary. And you can always have date nights with your spouse after the kids go to sleep – or even pop in a movie for the kids and sneak away to the bedroom for some quiet time. :)

  7. Levi says:

    I’m sorry but this is just absurd and over the top. Wrapping your children in cotton wool like this is suffocating and can have a very negative impact on them. Next you’ll be saying that mum and dad have to be there together whenever looking after the children, because an overwhelming number of children are molested by their very own parents.

    I am all for protecting our children, but not letting children integrate into society on the basis that some other child could fondle them is a very very black-and-white view to have.

    Children need love and care and guidance, not prison-like rules that mandate who they can see and where they are to be at all times. You may run the risk of others hurting your children by letting them have sleep-overs, however you also run the risk of having your children grow into paranoid, catastrophising, neurotic adults who are terrified of the world around them by preventing these normal human interactions and experiences.

    That’s just my take.

    • Rina says:

      I completely understand your opinion, Levi, and I think that’s a decision every parent needs to make for him/herself. I think we all parent based on our own experiences, at least to some extent, and based on mine and my husband’s experiences in this area we’ve decided that certain kinds of interactions just aren’t worth it. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t let our children “integrate into society,” (they are involved in lots of activities outside the home) it simply means that we don’t leave them unattended among strangers or even close friends at young and vulnerable ages. Certainly, we don’t want them to grow up to be paranoid or terrified of the world around them and thus far in their interactions with both adults and other children, they have proven to be well-balanced, unafraid of strangers and well socialized. I appreciate your concern regarding this and thank you for your comment.

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