It’s widely recognized that perpetrators of sexual abuse are among those close to the child’s immediate social circle. So as much as we would love to believe that we can trust those closest to us, the statistics just aren’t in our favour. But I’m not one for living in unnecessary fear, so how do we safeguard our children without stepping into paranoia? The answer is: No secret, only surprises!
Predators rely on secrecy to groom their victims. They facilitate trust by purposefully excluding the people who would be able to help. Out of the context of abuse, secrets between peers are also often negative, hurtful, and focus exclusion:
“Don’t tell Mary about my new toy, she can’t play with us.”
“Don’t tell Thomas about the party this weekend, he’s not invited.”
“Don’t tell your Mommy that I touched your private area, this is our little secret.”
So, if we instil a “no secrets” policy at home, we can prevent our children from ever falling into a “secret trap”. This protects them from predators and facilitates friendships.
Surprises, on the other hand, are positive, wonderful opportunities for inclusivity! The difference is that the person initially excluded from the surprise will always find out eventually:
“Don’t tell Nthabiseng, but I’ve arranged a play date with her best friend to cheer her up.”
“Don’t tell Elijah we’re throwing a surprise party for him this weekend!”
“Don’t tell Daddy, I’ve bought him a lovely gift for his birthday on Friday! Will you help me surprise him?”
Remind your child that if anyone asks them to keep a secret, they can say loud and proudly, “We don’t keep secrets in this family, we keep surprises!”