Letters

Changing our approach in protecting children

Dear Editor,

“We owe our children, the most vulnerable in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” Nelson Mandela

Nobody ever thinks it can happen to them. Nobody thinks they know a child predator. Until it is too late!

No one can fully understand or appreciate what a parent goes through at such a time, unless they have faced a similar tragedy.

On any given day in this country, a child faces potential harm and danger by someone they trust. It is time we say something!

November is National Child Safety and Protection Month, a nationwide effort to promote awareness of potential hazards and dangers that children face in everyday situations. In recognition of child health and welfare in The Bahamas, partners of the Coalition of Child Advocates are spearheading several initiatives, events, and awareness campaigns around the island that focus on this topic.

A child predator is not always a stranger in a dark alley, they are oftentimes in our midst. They are people we all know. They are our spouses, friends, relatives, trusted individuals. Ignorance and naïveté are dangerous in this situation.

The best way to keep your children safe from any danger is to learn the predator’s tactics.

Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides for the protection of children in and out of the home.

Child safety and protection encompass the safeguarding of children from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect.

While we have made some progress, there is more that needs to be done to raise community awareness and educate our society about the importance of protecting our children.

For over 50 years, we taught our children about “stranger danger”, the idea that all strangers can potentially be dangerous. Nowadays, teaching children simply to avoid strangers doesn’t work. Most strangers will help rather than harm children. Conversely, it is often people known to children who pose the greatest threat.

Therefore, it is crucial that we change our approach in fighting for the rights and safety of a child.

The United Kingdom has recently created a pilot program “Clever Never Goes” which is a more effective alternative to “Stranger Danger”.

This latest concept helps children to recognize specific situations that are unsafe and gives them the tools to respond. It’s about giving children practical safety skills and the confidence to engage with the outside world.

As a parent or guardian, the key is to trust your gut instinct, and to keep the communication open between you and your child.

Look for warning signs and address them right away. Understand that no role or position exempts a person from being a predator.

Talk to your child about their time away from you. Speak with your child about body safety and safe touches.

Talk to your child about sexual abuse and arm them with knowledge. Listen to your child; allow them to express their feelings.

As parents, you should have a healthy dose of skepticism about who cares for your child. Conduct your due diligence when hiring carers.

Develop a code word your child can use when they are feeling unsafe away from you. Always believe your child and tell them it’s not their fault.

Be on the alert. A common practice of a child predator is gaining the trust of the parent or guardian.

“No matter the circumstance, every child has the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse”. — UNICEF

To learn more tips about stranger danger training or child sexual prevention follow our Facebook page @SaveOurChildrenAlliance.

#seesomethingsaysomething


— Shervonne Hollis

Child Advocate, president

Save Our Children Alliance

VP, Coalition of Child Advocates

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