Children recognize the "look" of the child molester
According to statistics, in the majority of child molesting cases close family members are the perpetrators.
I still remember the "yucky" feeling I felt that a close family friend's glances gave me when I was about five years old.
I still remember the uncomfortable conversation with my mom, after uncle Frank left. I was scared and felt something that resembled shame, but when Mom sat down to watch TV, I curled up on her lap and told her, "Mommy, my stomach hurts."
Mom looked at me and probably noticed the anxious look on my face and asked, "Do you feel like throwing up, or you have a funny feeling in your tummy?"
"Uncle Frank looks at me funny. I don't like it."
My mom shrank back a little and an angry look flashed through her face, which made me regret that I told her about my feelings. In my childish mind, I was convinced that I did something wrong that made Mom angry. But then she quickly hugged me and assured me, "I believe you, munchkin! You didn't do anything wrong. You're a very smart girl to tell me about your feelings, you can always tell me anything. Tell me how it makes you feel when he looks at you."
Gaining courage from her words, I tried to explain the sickening feeling I had when the man looked at me. I couldn't find words to explain, but in my mind I saw my cat shrinking away from the neighbor's dog that had the look in his eyes just like uncle Frank did. "Mommy, Mrs. Varga's dog looks that way at Miri every time she goes close to the fence. He wants to hurt her. Does uncle Frank want to hurt me?"
Mom hugged me tight and said, "I don't know, honey, he might. I'm so glad you told me about this." She then held my shoulders and looked into my eyes. "You can always tell me everything. You now that, don't you?"
"Did he ever touch you, put you on his lap, or told you that you must keep something a secret?"
"No..." I hesitated remembering the chocolate bar he gave me the day before. "But he gave me chocolate and told me it's our little secret because he knows you don't let me eat candy before dinner." I sobbed.
"It's okay, munchkin, you did the right thing telling me this. Remember, never-ever keep a secret from daddy and me."
I didn't see uncle Frank again until I was a teenager, when he was arrested for molesting his brother's ten-year-old daughter. The girl had the courage to speak to her teacher about it because her mother had dismissed her and accused her of lying about the abuse.
That's when my dad confessed that he beat creepy Frank to a pulp and banned him from ever entering our house, that day when I told Mom about how he made me feel. Dad could never forgive himself for not going to the police back then. He always thought he could've prevented the abuse of the young girl, but also knew that without proof, and only the words of a five-year-old, the police couldn't have done anything.
I was lucky to tell my mom about my gut feelings, and she was smart not to didn't dismiss me but inquired further.
She knew that young children can't always describe what makes them anxious or uncomfortable, but they can tell you about their gut feelings in their own way, or they find the way to play it out. Children often say their stomach hurts when they feel anxious, because they can't describe the feeling of anxiety, worry, shame, or when someone's actions make them feel uncomfortable.
Talk to your children, and no matter what they tell you, believe them, and take them seriously.
Erika M Szabo
Author of urban fantasy, magical realism novels and children's books,
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