Co-written with Simon Morrell
As parents our children are our most precious commodity. We try to keep them safe, but many communities worry about child predators that find themselves working with children in positions of authority. How can we arm our children with the knowledge and resilience to get out of unsafe situations? More importantly, how can we arm ourselves from these predators? I spoke to Simon Morrell, marital arts expert and public speaker on what parents and communities can do to better protect their children from child predators.
Simon knows that even though a lot has been written about the subject of child predators, it’s integral that we keep addressing the issue head on, with confidence. As Simon attests “looking after our children is a duty. It is a privilege to protect our children.”
Over the last twenty five years Simon has had close contact with children via his Martial Arts studio. Most of his students come to him with issues as bullying (which Simon attests is a form of abuse) These children fear conflict and arrive to seek out courage, confidence and safety.
While working with children and seeing their fears creep into each session, little did Simon know, the testament of a child who had been a survivor of a child predator would be the admittance of his own wife and not one of his students.
She had never told anyone before and Simon was perplexed. Why was he, years after the incident occurred, was he the first to know? His wife was a thirteen year old girl who had a part time job. An older man abused her on many occasions. Why did she not tell anyone? Her answer was simple and would haunt Simon. “It was his word against mine.”
Even though outlets such as children’s help lines and the internet exist and are readily available, many children do not talk about their child abuse experiences because with tests, doctor’s appointments and court dates and a low prosecution rate of child abusers internationally, it really just stacks up to one person’s word against another.
This is a hard truth that all children and parents must live with. Simon knows that no survivor should feel shame or guilt. However, many do. When Simon’s wife, Julie became a Mother and her baby became an adorable toddler, he could see his wife fret. She had a worried look that all parents, especially those who have been abused have, she did not want her sweet daughter to endure anything like what she had to.
Simon was determined to make sure that would not happen to his daughter and all children. He would educate their little one, using the families love of martial arts to build confidence, respect for yourself, others and how to protect yourself. Simon’s daughter is not a national kickboxing champion. Simon taught that toddler to watch out for “tricky people” and to say an assertive, confident “NO” if a situation was to arise. He taught her to beware abusive characteristics that people share. He now has a movement that he would like to share with parents.
All children should have and adopt the following:
Any child, male or female should seek out, adopt the following; STRATEGIES Everyone should have a strategy. From children in the playground, to the housewife on a weekly shop to the businessman far from home, earning a living. The strategy in place does not have to be all engulfing, life consuming, paranoid defenses but a sensible plan for the “what if this happened?” The strategy’s sole purpose is to keep us safe from home. Think about it; from an early age we teach our children to look both ways when crossing the road. That is basic safety right? So shouldn't the same be true about warning them against PREDATORS ? Are our loved owns not at risk as much from a harm doer than as a moving vehicle? The answer is yes, however taboo that may seem. AWARENESS The first step has to be awareness. Awareness of surroundings, awareness of location, awareness of those in proximity. Educating our children in awareness and the factors we just mentioned does not mean they have to become paranoid, mistrusting of everyone, just erring on the side of caution. The obvious is a shady looking character lurking I the bushes at the local park but children are also snatched in broad daylight, in shopping malls, theme parks, from outside schools. Teaching our children to keep eyes and ears open goes a long way to start their self-protection. GUT INSTINCT It is true that Mother Nature provided us with a truly magnificent gift; gut instinct. If something, someone doesn't feel right, then it, they are probably not. If you child feels even minutely disturbed then they should evacuate as soon as possible. Here lies a problem in itself; good manners. We try to teach our children good manners but is it rude to simply walk away when an adult is talking to them? If they feel uncomfortable then who cares? Better safe than sorry. Besides, what are the chances of them ever bumping into that stranger again? Remote. HELPERS It may become necessary to seek out help. Maybe necessary is not a strong enough word for our young ones. Maybe essential is the correct term to teach them and this becomes a strategy in itself. It may not be wise to approach anyone in the street to seek help. A wiser approach would be to educate or children to go into a shop, one they will remember because a shop has identify. If they approach just anybody in the street then that stranger could be just that; anybody from anywhere with no way of tracing or identifying them. Granted the ever increasing CCTV makes identification more possible but is it then too late? A shop and its employees has grounding, is known in the community and may offer a safe haven. More importantly it will definitely have a phone to call for the Authorities. If your child has a mobile phone then have them program important, helpful numbers on speed dial. Every small step helps their self-protection. For Simon, personally it is sad to write (but important) that if they have a choice teach your child to approach females rather than males. History shows that most abductions and harmful acts (not all) are committed by males. Females are more likely to adopt a maternal instinct and protect a youngster. Also a male may be reluctant to assist a child, leaving themselves open to false accusations.
Though Simon does not condone violence of any kind, we does believe that children should be taught self-defense. As a survivor of abuse and bullying as a child, Simon attests that he is living proof that it works. He wants children to know that they do not have the phsycial strength to go against an adult despite what the media perpetuates.
Self Defense is to kick out and spin/twist your body whilst being as verbal, as loud as you can. Shout commands instead of screaming. “Help! I am being attacked!” Or “Get this man away from me! He is not my father, I don't know him. HELP!!!” This physical response will make it much more difficult for an abductor/predator to be successful and the screaming and racket you make will draw attention to your plight. Such attention will deter the predator for further action and he may flee.
Speaking to children about predators can have many parents in fear. They don’t want to scare them or have them experience. The truth is we live in a world that is not perfect. In fact, according to NSOPW.gov, 62,939 cases of child abuse were reported in 2012 and approximately 1.8 million adolescnets in the United States are the victims of sexual assault. Those are not low numbers. Those are not the poor child know one knows about who is the wrong place at the wrong time. These are people, with loving families, with friends at school and aspirations. Instead of fearing the unknown and ignoring the possibility, arm your children with the confidence and knowledge to protect themselves.