We’d read and re-read The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers, including the section about how “your body is your own personal property, and nobody else’s business — especially the private parts.”
We’d talked about public bathrooms and change rooms. We’d told the kids that, yes, sometimes there are kidnappers who will try to steal children. We’d talked about how sometimes there are “creepy adults” who try to touch children’s private parts. We’d taught them to scream, “Help! Stranger!”
We talked. We quizzed. We role-played.
When I was a child, my mom had a blue paperback called Sometimes it’s O.K. to Tell Secrets. It was a collection of little stories and cartoons about kids finding themselves in sketchy situations and having the courage to (A) get themselves out of it and (B) tell a responsible adult what happened.
Even though it sounds a little disturbing, my sister and I loved this book. Our mom would read these stories about a child being touched inappropriately, or forced to look at dirty pictures, or coerced into doing something bad and being told not to tell their parents.
I don’t know what happened to our tattered blue book — full of stories of children in bad situations — but the other day I ordered a new copy while wiping tears from my eyes. Sexual abuse hit our family out of nowhere …
We learned that the “bad person” you warned your kids about isn’t always the stereotype of the isolated neighbour, the uncle that makes you feel uncomfortable or the leering stranger that gives you the creeps.