DENVER -- The numbers are staggering. Nearly one-quarter of all children are sexually abused before the age of 18. That is one out of four kids!
But one Colorado woman is trying a unique approach to protecting kids. She has talked to sex offenders and has some powerful insight ... and offers three easy steps to keep your family safe.
Feather Berkower, founder of “Parenting Safe Children,” told her recent class of parents, “I acknowledge that this is not an easy topic to talk about, so it is my intention to give you clear information today so you can keep your children safe. I really, I do want to stress that my approach and belief is that ultimately it is an adult’s responsibility to protect children from sex abuse, not a child to protect him or herself.”
Berkower says her goal is to end the sexual victimization of children. She offers seminars and workshops to teach parents how to protect their children. She said, “The more information that you have about child sex abuse the more capable you are of keeping your kids safe.”
But how does she know? She’s been researching this topic for 20 years and has even gone into prisons to talk to convicted child sex offenders.
She said, “Some prey, others it’s situational opportunities and what I’ve learned is that typically someone who sexually abuses a child is attempting to meet their own unmet needs. Helplessness, severe depression, inability to get their own needs met, control, power. Often -- not always -- but often, sexual abusers will have a person who sexually abuses ... I like to say will have had experiences of this as a child themselves and never received any treatment or help and so they’re behaving in a way that’s familiar to them and not really understanding that it can hurt the child.”
Over the past two decades, Berkower developed a three part prevention model that includes the following:
- Educating parents
- Empowering children
- Screening caregivers
Denver mother, Julia Julian, took Berkower’s class and said, “The piece I didn’t know that Feather taught me was as a parent to go to the soccer coach, the pastor and say 'we don’t have secrets in our family, we don’t do this.' I thought what to I say ... don’t abuse my kids. You can’t touch my kids. My kids are off limits. They might touch other kids, the ones that are quieter or don’t have parental involvement. But they won’t touch my kids.”
Julia says it takes practice. It may be uncomfortable, but she says it is worth it. Julia said, “If I look like the crazy one for a while, but I saved my kids from being hurt in any way, then call me crazy. I don’t mind because I’ve protected them.”
One of the key things they teach is open communication with your kids and they say it’s never too early to start. Julia started when her boys were two years old. She said, “I started saying 'you know what?' You’re the boss of your body and no one ever has to touch your body. They know the word boss of their body since they were 2 ... one of the first words they said. It’s a real protection because all you need is words.”
Feather Berkower says if all parents and children were armed with these techniques, child predators would have a much more difficult time finding children to prey upon. Berkower said, “Every child deserves to be surrounded by adults who are informed about sexual abuse and have behaviors to protect them.”
Visit Parenting Safe Children for more information.