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Friday, December 23, 2011

Parents Beware!!

I really don't understand!! How could so many victims fall prey to that monster for so many years without one parent noticing something? Children are not professional poker players; they cannot hide their emotions, especially when they have been abused. I am talking, of course, of the tragic events at Penn State where a conspiracy of silence took place during approximately 15 years, from the president to the head coach. They should all be co-defendants, since they became accomplices by not calling the cops.

Why Not?

The real puzzler however is the fact that not one single parent came forward to denounce the pedophile; if several boys aged 8 to 12 were abused, surely one mother or father must have discovered the tremendous emotional change in their children. The real question is: Did they and if so, why remain silent? Public shame is one explanation, not convincing at all, because they allowed other boys to be sexually assaulted. The famous and destructive attitude held by so many families of "what will people think" has caused so much harm that it should be the main topic for family counselors.

The other possibility, one that parents should be aware of, is that nobody noticed the change; sad as it may be, it highlights a more serious problem: the lack of meaningful communication with our children. Father is busy at the office or traveling constantly, mother works from 9 to 5, and the nanny or daycare doesn't know them well enough to ring the alarm.

What To Do

 Fathers and Mothers, with a capital letter, should always watch their progeny very carefully:

     1. The child, usually happy and carefree, becomes moody and complains of nightmares.

     2. The 10-year old doesn't have appetite, not even for his favorite food.

     3. Your prepuber son no longer looks you in the eye; he may say that he feels sick

     4. The child refuses to go to school without giving an explanation.

     5. He or she may become aggressive and talks back to you (new behavior)

These are all signs that something serious is happening; while it may be problems of bullying or failing classes in school, never discard the possibility of sexual abuse. Sit down with the child in a
non-threatening manner (what have you done this time?), in a location where he/she feels secure and try to elicit an answer.  Please remember that your son or daughter feels guilty, even though they have done nothing wrong. It won't be easy to extract the real story (though it may be a trivial matter such as stealing chocolates from your box), because at that tender age they don't know how to value their experiences and feelings.

No Matter What

Yes, the mother usually will have a better chance of obtaining information than the father; children are still very much attached to her and they probably see her more often. No matter what the consequences, you must turn the matter over to the police if you discover sexual abuse. The name of your child may be kept confidential, but not yours. So it may be a good idea to transfer them to another school to avoid taunting and bullying. Don't forget to get counseling as soon as possible for your child and make time, you the parent, to be with him or her as much as possible. Make sure you show physical affection to reassure the child that he is not guilty and that he has not lost your love.

One last piece of advice: Watch carefully for close relatives if you suspect sexual abuse; more often than not, somebody living with you or somebody who is frequently alone with your child may be the culprit.

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