As the story continues to break out of Cleveland about three women who were abducted as teens, I think back to what we teach our children about strangers. Generally speaking, we teach that there are certain adults that will also be “good” people. Strangers are those you do not know.
While the stranger mode is true in regards to those you do not know, how do we teach our children about those adults we do know who may not be “good” people? Basically, and I have said this time and again, we need to teach and to show our children that their gut instincts about adults are correct.
Children need to know, especially teens who seem to think no one ever is going to listen to them, that what they say about adults matters. Nothing annoys me more than when a teen, or younger child, complains about unacceptable behavior from an adult and other adults ignore the knowledge. This is particularly true if that person is a trusted adult, like a school bus teacher. Here are some examples.
Even after the crap the Catholic church took during the child abuse scandal, some did not learn that we need to listen to our children – of all ages. Two high school girls in a church complained to the choir director that an adult male, who also sang in the choir, was showing up at school events and basically being creepy. He did not touch, or attempt to touch, either girl. By going to the adult in charge, the girls felt they had done what was needed and an adult would handle the problem. What was done? The girls were told that the man had a developmental delay. He was not creepy, just did not have a good grasp on what was socially acceptable. The girls were told to not be alone with him if they felt uncomfortable.
The reaction here was to place the responsibility back on the children in this issue. That is not the way it should be handle. The adult in this scenario should have been told that his behavior was unacceptable. He should have been told to leave the girls alone. He should have been warned that stalking is punishable by jail time.
What happened? About a year or so after this person was brought to an adult’s attention, he was arrested for molesting a child. Could this have been prevented? I don’t know but the person who was the ultimate decision maker in this scenario was the parish priest and he could see no evil.
We need to tell our children to never question their feelings on a matter. Keep telling an adult until one of them listens AND does something to remedy the problem. Children need to know that it is not up to them to stay away or not be alone with an adult. It is up to us, as adults, to protect our children.