Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tips to Keep Kids Safe Over the Holidays

Parents often wonder in response to the statement: “It’s an adult’s job to keep kids safe,” just what they can do to protect their kids.  So we thought the holidays, when visitors abound, schedules are off, and parents are overwhelmed, would be a great time to offer parents these tips regarding that very topic.

Tips for parents (or caregivers) to keep their kids safe….

Child sexual abuse prevention tips!

1.     1. Discuss boundaries – in general boundaries and respect are keys to empowering your kids to say no to unwanted touches, pictures, etc… by adults or other children (be sure to tell them other children may do things that are wrong also).
a.    Use the Speak Up Be Safe™ rule - "It’s My body", to help them learn what it means.  If you visit our website at and learn the five safety rules, you’ll see this first rule teaches kids their body is their own and they have the right to tell an adult No to uncomfortable touches, etc...  Give kids the tools to say no and practice! 
b.    During the holidays, lots of family members will be around and will want to hug your child, may want to play, tickle and even have your child sit on their lap.  Let both your child and the adults know this is a decision your child can make based on their comfort level, but if the child says no or stop, that is to be immediately respected!

2.     2. Pay attention to signals – a lot of times adults have a feeling that something is not quite right between an adult and a child, but they disregard that feeling because the adult in question is a family member or trusted friend, someone they think could never harm their child.  Truth is, 90% of children are sexually abused by someone they and the family knows very well, 70% by a family member.  Your child depends on you to keep them safe. If you have a gut feeling something is not right, ask questions, stop in, check back, and follow up. You owe it to your child to make sure you are paying attention and following up, not sweeping a feeling under the rug because it “couldn’t be” this person.

3.     3. Secrets have a way, especially bad secrets, of tearing families apart.  Teach your child that if someone asks them to keep a secret, they should tell them NO and then they should tell you.  Gifts as surprises until Christmas are okay, otherwise, families should adopt a “no secret” rule!

4.     4. Alone time between your child and another adult should be limited and then you should look for situations where that time is interruptible and observable and let the adult know you will follow up by asking your child lots of questions.  The fact that 80% of sexual abuse occurs in one adult – one child situations means that if you eliminate or minimize these situations, you have already protected your child better!

Remember, the key is early and ongoing communication.  Look for ways to start the conversations – extra guests sleeping in the house or trips to visit family and friends are both good ways to begin this type of conversation, and then look for ways to keep the communications going.  Two-way communications, where your child feels like they can come to you to ask questions must be ongoing! Parents must ensure the environment and the relationship is conducive to this happening!

Physical abuse increases during the holidays!
Increased time commitments and financial demands impact all families during the holidays, and sometimes, in some families, this may lead to physical abuse of a child. 

It’s important first of all, if you are feeling like you may hurt your own child to know there are things you can do to get help.
1.     Take a breather… sort of a time out for adults! Send your child to their room and/or you go to another room and take some time to de-stress and calm down when you are feeling like you are going to lose control.
2.     Call a friend and ask for support.  Often people don't want to ask others for help, but that’s what family and friends are for, and most of the time, they would be happy to help, they just don’t know what we need!  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength and love for your child!!!
3.     If that is not enough, you can always reach out for more professional help.  Contact the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).
4.     Watch out for signs of increased stress and possible abuse in a friend or neighbor’s family.  If you suspect this is the case, talk to the adult and tell them you too feel increased pressure during the holidays, and ask if there is any way you can help lighten their load.
5.     If you suspect the child is being, or has been, harmed, you must call the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).  Remember, making a report is helping a family get the services they need!

Lastly, don’t neglect – neglect!
1.     It’s easy to put too much responsibility on kids that are too young with all we as parents have to do, or to leave kids too young at home alone, etc…  but the holidays are no time to neglect our kids simply because we as parents are busy and have more to do!  Reach out to neighbors and ask for help, share responsibilities with friends, but please don’t neglect your kids! 

Remember, the holidays are about family and friends and we want it to be a safe and happy time as well. We at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children wish you and your entire family a safe and healthy 2012!  To learn more about the five Speak Up Be Safe™ Safety Rules and other resources to help you in your efforts to keep your child safe, visit our website at  Remember that $2.00 will also provide the complete program to a child.  To make a donation go to  Thanks for joining us as we work to Protect Florida’s Children!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do we need more awareness or do we need action to protect children from child sexual abuse?

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim said last week he wants to work toward increasing awareness of child abuse.  A generous and thoughtful gesture to be sure, however I’d like to take a moment to point out some previous efforts at awareness and ask if more awareness is really what we need? 

In 1986 Oprah revealed her own childhood sexual abuse to her audience and in 2010 after Tyler Perry revealed his abuse on the Oprah show, Oprah hosted a 2-day event, “200 Adult Men who were Molested Come Forward.” And the awareness hasn’t stopped there.  This year alone several celebrities have published books revealing their own childhood sexual abuse and rape, including Shania Twain, Sugar Ray Leonard and Ashley Judd to name just a few.

In the United States there were slightly fewer than 66,000 reports of sexual abuse in 2009.   However, according to several experts in the field, only between 12% (Hanson, 1999) and 30% of child sexual abuse cases (Finkelhor, 2008) are ever reported to authorities, therefore, the actual number of children sexually abused each year in the US is more likely to be between 220,000 and 550,000.

According to the most widely quoted statistic in the field taken from retrospective studies, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006), this means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.  And considering we have, as of the 2010 census, 74,181,467 citizens under 18 in our country, and we look at an average of 1 in 5 children, if 1 out of every 5 of them are or will be sexually abused, that potentially could be….. almost 15 million children that will be sexually abused before they are 18. Really? According to Darkness to Light, “Even if the true prevalence of child sexual abuse is not known, most will agree that there will be 500,000 babies born in the US this year that will be sexually abused before they turn 18 if we do not prevent it.”

So clearly awareness is needed! But when is enough awareness enough?  Do we think people know by now that adults are using children for sexual gratification in our country?  People have known for years that adults are neglecting and physically abusing kids… and yet that continues; so the question now becomes – are they aware this type of terrible abuse happens, that voyeurism, taking obscene pictures and indecent liberties, molesting, abusing, and raping children happens? It happens every day in our great nation!  And I would say, most people know it happens.  They know it and they either don’t want to admit it, think it won’t happen to them so they aren’t really concerned about it, they don’t want to talk about it because it is so horrific to think about, or they just simply don’t know what to do about it.

Yes child sexual abuse is real, it happens to real kids who go on to have real problems!  And whether it impacts you directly or indirectly – IT DOES IMPACT YOU! So please, be courageous enough to talk about it and protect kids that are being groomed or victimized.  Do something – anything!

  1. Advocate for better child protection laws and prevention programs.
  2. Learn the indicators of abuse and speak up when you suspect a child is being maltreated.
  3. Learn more about the Monique Burr Foundation team and how we are protecting Florida’s children Now, and about references/research and resources at
  4. Call your school or district to see if our prevention program, Speak Up Be Safe™ (which addresses bullying, and the prevention of all types of child abuse, including child sexual abuse for children and all the relevant adults in their lives), is currently being implemented in elementary schools in your district, and if not tell them you want the program and give them our website!
  5. Make a donation to the Monique Burr Foundation for Children so we can continue to advocate for and educate children and communities, and better protect all children!

Because as I said awareness is a generous and thoughtful gesture – but action is real and gets results!  
The Monique Burr Foundation for Children believes in Protecting Florida’s Children – Let’s Do It Now!