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Trick-or-Treat: Creating Safe Communities for Our Children

Today's guest  post is written by Michael Crawford, fellow blogger and Communications Assistant with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Leaves and temperatures are down, candy prices are up: it must be time to trick or treat!

As a parent, there are lots of things to worry about: tripping hazards, getting caught in the rain or (please, heavens, no) candy getting stuck in hair. But there’s one “trick” that probably won’t rear its head: the bogeyman.

People who commit child sexual abuse are today’s bogeyman, or so we’d like to believe. The problem is children are not likely to suffer abuse at the hands of a stranger offering candy on Halloween. Perpetrators choose their victims carefully, and rarely does child sexual abuse occur soon afterwards; they will spend weeks, months, even years grooming their intended victim, building trust and pushing boundaries.

How do perpetrators have the kind of access to children to accomplish this? They’re often productive members of society with – as proven by a recent close-to-home revelation – clean background checks.

This Halloween, let’s stop tricking ourselves into looking for the bogeyman and start looking at ways we can create a safe community for our children:

  • Respect when a child does not want to give or receive physical affection. No matter how awesome of a treat someone (even a friend or relative) dropped into your child’s Halloween bucket, they don’t owe them a high five.
  • On the same wavelength, let your child know he or she is in control of who touches his or her body, and how. Help your child establish personal space – wearing a costume doesn’t mean people can ignore the boundaries they set.
  • Become comfortable talking with children in your life about their bodies and development. Teach your child the correct names of all the different body parts – they can’t open up to you if you don’t give them the words to do so.
  • Most importantly (and you may have noticed a theme by now) have your child’s back. Take action when another adult acts inappropriately, such as not respecting the child’s boundaries or making sexual jokes.

Halloween shouldn’t be the only time to be having these conversations with your children, or calling out poor behavior by adults. Consistency is key to healthy, happy children.

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