While any parent can benefit from what I am about to share, this is specifically for those saints who have become too comfortable in their settings and, especially, in the church building.
Statistically speaking, many already know that a child is multiples of times more likely to be abused by a family member or close friend of the family (i.e., someone they know) than by a complete stranger. That statistic may be about to change with the vicious predatory nature of sex-trafficking; however, in either setting, familiar or not, every parent should be alerted to the practical measures they can take to help prevent putting their children in harm’s way.
Basic Social Awareness
Let’s start with a few basics that our family sees ignored by the general populous on the daily. Though we have more experience with observing the statistical truths through the lens of our work in a group home and a boarding school, these are common sense measures that might help prevent a child from going missing in a public setting in the first place — a sudden-onset heart palpitation no good parent wants to experience.
The first one is so easy, we’ve trained our own kids to see it:
“Mom, why are those kids walking so far behind their parents?”
They’re everywhere. At Target. Meandering into a gas station. Exiting the grocery stores: Kids trailing ten to fifteen feet behind their guardian (I assume and hope, a parent).
It is sometimes so egregious that I’ve witnessed children as young as three or four still lagging behind the adult outside of the store, in the road, as the adult bullishly continues and proceeds to go inside, get a cart, and only then look behind them to see if the kid is still there.
Really? Do you know how easy it would be to snatch a kid and run in this situation?
Some people are more aware of their puppy’s deviances and wanderings, herding them like the known trouble-attracters that they are, than some parents are of their young children’s vulnerability in public spheres.
Did I watch the whole time to make sure that young one got reattached to the adult inside of the store. Yes. Yes, I did. And if I’m watching, others may be too — with less upright intent.
I realize that this is an extreme example. Most kids we see trailing are only five to ten feet behind their guardians, but even that is too much.
Which leads to my second point, related to the first:
If you can think of no greater loss in life than to lose one of your children in a kidnapping scenario —
Why not hold their hands in public?
Why not make sure they are holding onto some part of you (your purse, a sleeve, an elbow, the cart etc…) if you lack enough hands?
Why not make sure they are IN SIGHT at all times, and within arms-reach, when surrounded by unknown herds?
Forget heli-copting accusations, parents. These are basic rules that signal to anyone watching that you are paying attention. If you think these are overreaching, you do not understand the times… and someone is probably watching your children from a distance because you aren’t.
Just because something didn’t happen, doesn’t mean someone wasn’t watching.
Our family, along with the group home kids in our care, visited a nice Anglican church for a short while. It was in a posh part of town, clean but humble, and we enjoyed the services.
After a time, our family was invited to a small group from this church, and it happened to be a small group that was held in the pastor’s home. So, we attended — once, and never again.
I loved it. The women in the group were delightful, smart, musical, and the home was everything I’d come to expect from a mid-to-upper class establishment. There was nothing unpleasant about it. Well-lit and friendly.
And you’re probably going to think our reasons for never going back are a little crazy, but I can tell you I’ve never regretted that decision.
At the end of the fellowship, the priest/pastor asked to hold my daughter, who was under two at the time, and proceeded to carry her upstairs and show her around the house —
Without her father.
And without my expressed permission to do so.
Let’s stop to remember that we liked this guy. We’d been taking not only our own children but other children with us to his church. But his actions in that moment are, unfortunately, classic predatory and grooming tactics — whether he meant them to be.
Long story short, if someone is acting too familiar with your children, whether you know them or not, little alarms should begin to sound in your ears. In this case, it was someone we didn’t know well, so we had more reason to feel alarmed.
In some cases, when the person is more familiar, those alarms sound far too late…
I am just one woman, yet I have several stories of fine, upstanding, church folk doing the wrong thing. And, lest you think I’m beating up on church here, I can tell you that these issues are even more prevalent in the world and in other institutions: I can only tell you about the issues in the arenas with which I am familiar and, for me, the primary one is church.
I will move onto the consanguineal unit in a moment, but I want to share one more story that exemplifies the latent effects of sin blossoming in the church.
The evangelical church my family attended growing up had a stretch of 40 days of prayer and services. Every night for 40 days we met for evening services. Our family showed up early, sometimes helping with set-up or tear-down, sometimes trying to snag one of the popular chocolate-chip cookies they set out before service, always meeting for the usher-team prayer prior to service. I was around fourteen years old, and it was my task to lay the little silk blankets over women’s skirts after they were ‘slain in the Spirit’ during the service.
Anyway. On one particular night, I noticed the worship leader and one of his young protégés, a young woman, acting a little too friendly. Perhaps, the worship leader playing Hotel California before the service to entertain the girl should have been anyone’s first clue… but I digress.
Of course, he was married with three kids. She was young and dumb — as most of us are in our early twenties. And I was later (that night) sent on a mission to relay information to the soon MIA worship leader.
I have no idea what the message was now. Indeed, I could scarcely recall the message after finding him and the young lady in the maintenance closet hugging and kissing.
Well, that will rock the world of any naive teenager who still believes church people are blameless of such blatant sins. It certainly rocked mine.
I was not the victim, exactly, in this particular case, but I was the child — the child witnessing things that rocked my view of the world, of church, and of authority structures everywhere.
ALL sexual sins are harmful to someone. No doubt, this young lady was hurt, I was hurt by witnessing the transgression, and the worship leader kicked his own marriage down.
The Consanguineal (Fancy word for blood relations)
Some things are obvious.
I’m walking with my kids to a local gas station. An older guy appears out-of-nowhere to offer my girls some Halloween cookies. We accept, though I am wishing the whole time he hadn’t appeared — and even moreso when, after my girls take the cookies, he says, “Now you have to do a trick for me.”
Uh. Hell no and bye.
Other things are not so obvious.
One of the dearest, sweetest girls we had the privilege of knowing while working in a group home had been molested for years by her father as her older brothers turned a blind eye and while her mother didn’t believe her (or didn’t want to believe her — more likely).
And she wasn’t the first girl in my life to personally tell me this same story. It is horrifying and it is the day we live in, for those still blissfully unaware (and I hope you are in a way).
Was it hard for the mother to believe because losing a husband would be too hard? Or was it hard because she never thought he would or could do such a thing? Whichever the case, it’s even harder for me to believe that she did not have some inkling that her own daughter was telling her the hard truth… Perhaps, the mother too had been abused in her youth.
Would you believe it if your son or daughter accused your family’s close friend? An uncle? A brother? A father? Even an aunt? A business partner? Someone at church?
Sadly, we also live in a day when some kids would falsely accuse if given the right circumstances, but I think that is still less likely at present. So, what is the reason for not believing these little lambs when they say, This happened to me?
But we’ve all heard such stories. Haven’t we?
Let’s return to the less obvious and practical practices.
An adolescent older brother should not be set in charge of changing his baby sister’s diaper or training pants. I would give that caution anywhere, but I was most alarmed to see this happen once while working in a church nursery — with the mother’s expressed permission for it to be done that way.
Ladies… momma… I am here to tell you, that the sibling in this situation is more likely to abuse the girl than the other mom working in the church nursery — and that’s not my opinion: That’s statistical fact.
It grieves me to think that this mom may have been trying to protect her daughter, all the while making the worst decision possible. AT BEST, she was setting her son up for temptation or failure.
As with our fathers, of course we want to believe the best about this young and seemingly responsible older brother’s intentions, but sin seeks opportunity, dear ones. Our job as parents is to reduce those opportunities as much as possible.
Sin seeks opportunity! Our job as parents is to reduce that opportunity as much as possible!
Porn is rampant in the church. Child porn in rampant in our society. And technology makes it extremely easy to process, upload, and share. Please do not discount this warning when you see strange things and feel alarms going off inside.
My husband and I have set a few practical boundaries in place for our children because of the things we’ve seen, experienced, and personally heard testimony to in our lives. I want to share a few of those things with you as suggestions for your own family. I was pleasantly surprised, after moving to Iowa, to find that we were not the only parents who had set some of these things in place. (High five! You know who you are!)
- WE DO NOT PERMIT SLEEPOVERS. NOPE.
- OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE ALONE IN A ROOM WITH A MALE ADULT. PERIOD. RELATED OR NOT. (AND WHEN I SEE THAT IT HAS HAPPENED OR I SUSPECT IT, I BEGIN HUNTING FOR CHILDREN.)
- I HOLD THE SAME GENERAL RULE FOR OLDER MALE CHILDREN.
- PRESENTLY, OUR CHILDREN ARE STILL NOT PERMITTED OUT-OF-SIGHT UNLESS WE KNOW EXACTLY WHERE THEY ARE AND THEY ARE WITH OTHER CHILDREN THEIR AGE OR A PROPER GUARDIAN.
- OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT FREE TO RUN AROUND THE CHURCH BUILDING OR CAMPUS WITHOUT SUPERVISION.
We have, in emergency or special cases, made exemptions for a few of these rules, but they are the general rules that govern how we govern our children.
I know you want to cite that news piece about the young kid who took the bus or subway every day alone in NYC, but please don’t. I read it too, and I think it’s convenient… convenient that a world under the sway of the devil would suggest such behaviors and ‘freedoms’ for your kids.
You may not feel that the world is really under Satan’s power-grip right now, but you should know that there are people who have very ugly agendas for our children. The San Francisco gay choir even sang about it. And one of Satanist’s texts (Pike or Hall; I don’t have the exact reference) plainly states:
Well, it has become increasingly obvious in our society lately, hasn’t it? Already, the above stated agenda has been implemented in T.V. and music videos. God knows, society has been shown everything under the sun by these venues: “every type of sexual act”. Indeed.
This is not the time to play games or act dumb when it comes to your children, saints. And you are free to take into account your own weaknesses and lifestyle when designing your own strategies for protecting your children. I have only given you some basic, opportunity-squashing suggestions that we find helpful.
For the rest — because we have no illusions of absolute control — pray! Pray for your children.
May our Father in heaven give you wisdom concerning these things.