Protecting Your Daughter Against Sexual Abuse: Knowledge is Power
Understand the factors that could make a your daughter vulnerable to a sexual predator
Photo courtesy of Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock
Once innocuous names, Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar now elicit visceral reactions within women across America and have given rise to numerous hashtags rallying those — mostly women — who are finding the courage to speak up about their experiences of sexual abuse. The topic of sexual abuse, while infuriating, can make any well-intentioned mom frightened enough to want to hide her daughter in a room forever and with good reason.
- 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abusers.
- 48 percent were sleeping or performing another activity at home when the sexual abuse occurred.
- 28 percent of U.S. youth are sexually abused before age 18.
Sexual abuse is closer than you think. However, there are proactive steps that you, as a parent, can take.
The first preventive line of defense is to arm yourself with knowledge. Knowledge is power and it can serve as the foundation for any approach you’d use to protect your daughter. With that in mind, you’ll need to know that there are both external and internal factors that could make a your daughter vulnerable to a sexual predator. Those three external factors are:
The Place: Sexual abuse acts are usually done in secret or involve some manipulation that directs the victim to “tell no one.”
The “Perp Plan”: The perpetrator usually uses some form of force, fear (of retaliation) and/or fantasy (to entice or lure victims with some promise of personal advantage).
The “Pedestal (a.k.a. Authority) Position”: A perpetrator possesses either real or perceived authority over their victims and leverages it by real or implied threats, or through a spoken or unspoken message of normalization, or under the guise of “knowing what’s best.” Additionally, the supporting systems (of a family or organization) may knowingly or unwittingly propagate a culture that deifies, downplays, or dismisses the perpetrator and/or his/her actions.
Some of the internal factors are:
Innocence: She’s has an innocence or naivete about people.
Boundary Confusion: She’s getting mixed messages about boundaries.
Insecurities about her character, competence and connections to others.
Perceptions of Control: She has perceptions and/or beliefs that she does not have control in her life.
As her mom, you are your daughter’s first example of who a woman is and what being a woman is all about. How you have navigated your own way in the world and interacted with men will inform how your carry yourself in front of your daughter. However, your actions and examples are not enough.
As her mom, you will need to speak to your daughter about the facts of life, including the dangers that exist in the world. In age-appropriate ways that will not prematurely rob your daughter of her innocence, you can weave life lessons into your times of interacting with your daughter so that the main points and themes can get caught and not just be taught.
In my next guest blog, I will elaborate more on the external factors and how to combat them.
Dr. Michelle Deering, Ed.D., is a North Carolina-licensed clinical psychologist (LP, HSP-P), nationally board-certified sport psychologist, professional speaker and author. She is the founder and CEO of Curative Connections LLC, a premier consulting firm in Apex, North Carolina, that provides keynote speaker, consultation and sport psychology services to schools, colleges, organizations, parent groups and athletic teams. She specializes in life transitions (middle school to high school to college and beyond), trauma, sport injury recovery and peak performance issues. Mother of twin daughters and, herself, a sexual abuse survivor, Deering is the author of "What Mothers Never Tell Their Daughters: 5 Keys To Building Trust, Restoring Connection, & Strengthening Relationships" (available May 2018). Connect with Michelle at CurativeConnections.com
Photo by Nancy Jo Photography