IF IT FEELS WRONG, IT IS WRONG…
Parents Must Understand, Teach Their Children and Recognize the Grooming Behaviors of Sexual Predators*
The following information was developed from information provided by Educate Empower Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to “providing resources to parents and caregivers to encourage connection and healthy relationships through love, communication, education and empowerment.” This website contains valuable information on how to speak with your children about sexual and other topics that are critically important to the protection of children (see http://educateempowerkids.org/8-ways-predator-might-groom-child/)
Why do parents and their children need to be educated about “grooming”? Research indicates:
--The Advocacy Center (http://www.theadvocacycenter.org/adv_abuse.html
The best way for your child to avoid being a victim is to educate them about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior between children and adults. Your Club encourages you to speak with your children and provides the following information to assist you:
• “A predator might pay special attention to a child and make him or her feel special. They will get to know the child’s likes and dislikes very well. A predator is likely to try to win over the affection of his or her intended victim by sharing these likes. ‘I got us a box of your favorite candy to share.’ or to an older child: ‘You like that band? That’s my favorite band. I could get us tickets to their next concert.’’’ Tell your child not to accept presents from coaches or staff members and to let you know if they are ever offered.
• “A predator might isolate your child by involving him or her in fun activities that require them to be alone together.Part of the manipulation process is lowering the inhibitions of children. A skilled predator who can get children into a situation where they must change clothing or stay overnight will almost always succeed in victimizing them. An adult who invites your child to sleep over at his or her house alone should raise a red-flag warning to you.” A coach should not be spending time at the home of an athlete or befriending parents to get closer to their child. A parent should not think that the coach providing special individual attention to your child is related to the coach believing their child is more talented than others. Our coaches are told not to play favorites or treat athletes differently. A coach should never invite a child to attend a game or other social activity unless it is an official team activity.
• “A predator might touch your child in your presence so that he or she thinks that you are comfortable with the touching. This act might be as simple as draping an arm over the child’s shoulder or asking for a hug to say goodbye. Be aware of your child’s reactions to other adult’s touches. Does your child stiffen or seem uncomfortable? Also, never force your child to show affection to anyone when they aren’t comfortable doing so. This leaves the impression that forced physical contact is okay.” Congratulatory ‘high fives’ and a pat on the back are allowed while hugs and draping arms around players are not.
• “Keep in mind that the first physical contact between a predator and his or her victim is often nonsexual and designed to desensitize the child. It breaks down inhibitions and leads to more overt sexual touching. It may begin as an “accidental” bump or rub, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair. Teach your children that any physical contact between child and adult is something to be wary of and questioned.
• “A predator might take advantage of a child’s natural curiosity about sex by telling “dirty” jokes, showing him or her pornography or by playing sexual games. If your child starts to talk (uncharacteristically) about sex and things related to it, never overlook this kind of development because it might be a sign that he or she is being groomed. Be aware of the physical signs as well. If your toddler is masturbating or trying to touch others inappropriately, this may be a sign that there is a problem.”
• “A predator may offer to play games or buy treats for young children. To lure older children or teenagers, they may offer to buy drugs or alcohol. After a while, the predator starts to ask something in return. This “something” may be a sexual act or forcing the child to watch pornographic material. Pornography is often part of the grooming process in order to lower a child’s inhibitions. If your child is old enough to have internet access, make sure you are monitoring his or her email and social networking correspondence. A predator will send explicit materials this way as part of the grooming process.” Our coaches are prohibited from emailing athletes individually. All emails are to parents or copied to parents and they should always be about team business.
• “A predator might present him or herself as a sympathetic listener when parents, friends and others disappoint a child. Predators often target adolescents who feel isolated from their peers. “Your parents don’t understand you, but I do,” “I can tell you’re lonely. I was the same way at your age,” he or she may say to a child they are trying to lure. Unfortunately, children of single parent homes are frequently preyed upon because they are seen as vulnerable or having a void that needs to be filled. Male predators have been known to seek out single mothers to gain access to their children.” We prohibit our coaches from discussing personal or family problems with athletes. They are not licensed counselors.
• “A predator might eventually treat the child victim as a co-conspirator in their “relationship”. Saying things like, “Your parents would be angry at both of us if they found out what we did.” In order to abuse the child and minimize the fear of discovery, a sexual predator will often times share secrets with the victim. The victim is made to believe that they are being trusted with something of value, before being asked to share something of value with his or her abuser. This bonds the victim to the predator, setting the tone for more sinister secrets to be shared.” You should caution your children that no adult should ever ask them to keep a secret from their parents.
Even though these statistics are alarming and information about artful grooming techniques used by sexual predators seem overwhelming, it is reassuring to know that many of today’s kids are not afraid to speak up for themselves or to question authority figures. While this behavior can be a frustrating at times, it can serve these children well in situations where an adult is attempting grooming behaviors.
Educate Empower Kids provides parents with good advice when they ask them to remember:
What Our Club Will Tell Your Child
The Club cannot replace a parent with regard to educating your children about human anatomy and sex. What we can do is to tell your children that the following coach behaviors are unacceptable and should be reported to their parents and to the Club’s Child Welfare Advocate (we have one male and one female adult fulfilling these roles). Parents and athletes need to tell us if any of the following policies are broken. At an annual meeting with athletes, the Club’s Child Welfare Advocate reviews with following policies with athletes. Know that all coaches also receive annual education sessions reviewing these prohibitions and receive the same information about recognizing grooming behaviors. Coaches are responsible for reporting concerns if they observe violations by other coaches.
Coaches are not allowed to:
· text message, tweet, email, telephone, or otherwise socially engage individual athletes. Text and email messages related to official club business such as changes in practice and competition times or locations, or travel plans, etc. are permitted but must go to all athletes and be copied or go through parents.)
· have any physical bodily contact with athletes outside of the practice or contest environment or within the practice or contest environment except under the following specific conditions: (1) when the coach asks for permission first to touch an athlete for the purpose of correcting physical form or placing a body part in a correct mechanical position; (2) giving a congratulatory “high five” or pat on the head or back to congratulate an athlete for a good performance; or (3) “spotting” or any protective coaching intended to reduce the risk of practicing or performing a skill that may cause harm with such “spotting” techniques explained to athletes beforehand. In general, if anyone touches an athlete, they should ask the athlete’s permission before doing so.
· have a sexual, intimate, romantic or similar close personal relationship with individuals over which a person has an instructional or service responsibility, even if a consensual relationship between adults. Our coaches are even prohibited from having such relationships for two years following a coaching relationship. A coach who engages in such activity even following this two-year period still bears the burden of demonstrating there has been no exploitation of the coach-athlete relationship if faced with allegations of impropriety. This prohibition and obligation to demonstrate no exploitation is consistent with the United States Olympic Committee Coaching Ethics Code.
· perform back rubs or massage on an athlete even if the coach is a licensed allied health professional (must be performed by a non-coach who is a licensed allied health professional hired for this specific purpose and approved by the Club)
· kiss an athlete
· touch an athlete for instructional/mechanical instructional corrections without prior consent
· comment on athletes’ or employees’ bodies or appearance in a sexual manner
· comment on bodily changes and attire of the athlete that is unrelated to the athlete's athletic performance
· exchange or give gifts
· engage in romantic communications with athletes
· show athletes obscene or suggestive photo
· videotape or photograph athletes in revealing or suggestive poses
· discuss with athletes or write about sexual topics and share such with athletes
· make sexual jokes, sexual gestures, and innuendos or engaging in inappropriate sexually oriented banter
· ask about an athlete’s dating behavior
· share sexual exploits or marital difficulties
· intentionally invade the athlete's privacy outside of regularly scheduled practice and competition
· use e-mail, text-messaging, instant messaging, or other social media to discuss sexual topics with athletes
· travel alone with an athlete. Parents and athletes should never ask a coach to drive a Club participant home or to any other site after an event. If emergency transportation needs to be arranged, another parent should be contacted. This policy does not prohibit a coach from participating as a driver in normal club group transportation arrangements to and from practice and competition sites
· be alone with an athlete in any facility (locker room, storage room, etc.)
· accept social invitations from parents. Parents should avoid inviting coaches to dinners, family gatherings or non-team social events. As much as we like and appreciate our coaches, special treatment and benefits could be perceived by others as buying special treatment for Club participants. However, it is appropriate for coaches to be invited to attend events when the entire team is invited (i.e., weddings, etc.)