Keeping Kids Safe

A parent-led child safety program

Dear Parents,

The Diocese of Knoxville is committed to providing a safe environment for all who worship, work, or participate in education and formation opportunities at our parishes and schools. The problem of child sexual abuse is a serious one; a child suffers sexual abuse somewhere in our country every 13 seconds.

Statistics show that the vast majority of children who are abused (93%) know and trust their abusers and the vast majority of abusers (95-97%) are male. Sadly, one in four girls and one in six boys will suffer some form of sexual abuse before age 18. While child abduction by strangers attracts dramatic media attention, the majority of abusers are family members and trusted friends. The stereotype of the pervert in the raincoat is inaccurate; sexual predators work hard to be seen as model citizens.

Because only 29% of parents discuss this issue with their children, providing resources to parents is the first step to protecting our kids. Empowered parents can develop and maintain an environment of trust in the home that allows children to discuss any topic, any fear, and any experience they are having. Potential abusers will avoid children who have such an open and honest relationship with their parents because abusers depend upon secrecy to avoid suspicion.

On the other hand, perpetrators target children who are most vulnerable to their methods, such as those looking for affection or attention. As one convicted sex offender chillingly told an audience of parents, "If you won't give your kids any attention, I will." Parents, be especially alert to any older child or adult who takes a particular interest in your children, tries to spend time with them in isolation, and seems to lack healthy relationships with his or her peers.

The Diocese of Knoxville is committed to reporting to law enforcement every known or suspected instance of child abuse. When we respond through proper intervention, we provide hope for children to lead healthy and happy lives.

Best Practices for Parents

  • Make time to communicate with your children - and don't forget that the most important part of communication is listening.
  • Be familiar with your children's friends and activities. Know where your children are - and whom they're with.
  • Acquaint yourselves with the family composition of the homes where your children spend time. Is there adult supervision? Are there older brothers and/or make teenagers around? Does the single mom have a boyfriend present?
  • Screen babysitters carefully; check references before entrusting your children to anyone.
  • Never force children to touch, hug, or kiss someone whom they don't want to. Forcing them to do this teaches them that it is okay for adults to impose themselves on children.
  • Perpetrators start young: be aware of any children who violate the boundaries of other children. Older siblings perpetrating on younger siblings is a very common form of child abuse.
  • Teach your children to trust their instincts and give them permission to say "No" to what they think is wrong.
  • Teach your children to trust that a good secret is one that will eventually be told, like a surprise party. Bad secrets are often used to cover up wrongdoing.
  • Understand that abusers often build trust with parents for the sole purpose of gaining access to their children.
  • Teach your children to tell you if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable, or touches them inappropriately - and believe them if they do.
  • Be alert to your child's expressing fear or sudden dislike of someone.
  • Monitor your children's Internet use and keep computers in a public area of the house.
  • Be sensitive to changes in your children's behavior: talk to them about the changes when you notice them.