Let me preface this by saying I’m sorry. I’m not writing this to scare you, but it is my guess it will. I shouldn’t have to write this post, and you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
But I have to write it and you now have to worry, if you weren’t already worried.
My friend recently went to a movie. It was one of those movies geared toward kids, with some humor thrown in for the adults who need to go with them. Just because the movie was geared toward kids doesn’t mean adults can’t go and enjoy it, but sometimes, there is something more sinister going on.
My friend is a survivor of sexual abuse. As she was getting her tickets, she thought she saw a man who looked like her abuser. She shook it off because she thought it was unlikely that her abuser would be at this particular movie; a kids’ movie. She and her boyfriend found their seats and a few minutes later, someone sat down behind them. She got that feeling-that creepy, something isn’t right feeling. She glanced over her shoulder, and there was her abuser. He was with his wife and step-daughter. At least he wasn’t there just by himself, but he was still there.
My friend got up and walked out of the theater. Her boyfriend, not knowing what was going on, followed. She told him who was sitting behind her and then they talked about whether or not they should stay.
She ultimately decided to stay. They watched the movie, and then on the way out, she went to the bathroom. Her abuser’s wife and step-daughter were in the bathroom. If they recognized her, they didn’t say anything.
I absolutely could not have stayed in the theater. This isn’t about judging my friend for her choice. I would like to think I would have had enough courage to announce to the crowded theater of kids and parents that there was a convicted sex offender in their midst. I’m not sure I could have done that.
I don’t want you to never take your child to a movie again. Or a park, or, church, or school, camp, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, daycare… I hope you get my point that predators are EVERYWHERE. We cannot assume that they are cowering in the shadows. They are bold and brash and looking for an opportunity to abuse kids.
The very best we can do for our kids is talk to them about staying safe. Teach them about safe touch. Teach them to say no. Tell them they can tell you anything and you will believe them and do everything you can to keep them safe. Teach them that secrets aren’t something to keep and that even if someone touches them inappropriately and threatens to hurt you, that it’s just a threat to keep them quiet. Tell them how much you love them and how important they are. Go with them to movies, and the bathroom.
You cannot keep your kids home so they never experience danger. That kind of defeats the point of having them and wanting them to be independent people.
Above all, teach them to be smart and pay attention. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Tell them it is okay to say that something doesn’t feel right and to get out of that situation.
Sex offenders are everywhere. Kids are everywhere. Even if they are never abused, and I hope beyond hope that they aren’t, they will encounter them. Give them the tools to keep themselves safe. This is the only way we can stop the epidemic of sexual abuse.
This story was used with permission of my friend. No one has been named to protect her privacy. If it weren’t for that, please know I would have named the abuser.