Friday, November 12, 2010

Amazon, P*dophiles, and Protecting Our Children

A few days ago the internet seemed to be turned upside down with rage over an e-book being sold by Amazon.  This book appeared to be a how-to guide for p*dophiles (here's a post by one person who downloaded the book to see what its actual content was... and it's just as bad as we all feared).

After a full day of responding only to email inquiries with a form letter stating that Amazon would continue to sell the book because "they don't believe in censorship"(despite the book's content violating Amazon's own Content Guidelines), they then quietly took it down off the site by the next morning... and have yet to utter a peep about any of this.

This morning I read this post that pretty much summarizes how I feel about this whole thing, so I won't elaborate on that much more since she pretty much said it all.

However, I do want to address a slight off-shoot of this topic.  As I read posts and tweets and comments about this book, I often saw attitudes by people reflecting the idea that p*dophiles are these creepy, scary people that hide behind bushes and jump out at children.  Our obsession with things like sex offender lists shows that most people view the threat as one coming from outside their social circle, that strangers are the biggest danger and what we should focus on when working to protect our kids.

This ignores the reality that an estimated 85-95% of child sexual abuse cases involve not a stranger, but someone the child already knew and was familiar/comfortable with-- a parent, uncle, cousin, baby-sitter, family friend, etc.  Thinking about the people that I know personally who have been abused in the past (at least the ones I'm aware of), every single one was by a family member or friend, not a stranger.  When we focus on strangers as the main threat, we leave ourselves (and our kids) open for the more likely danger of the familiar.

The selling of this book should be a reminder to all of us to talk to our children about what is and is not appropriate, and how to protect themselves from abuse.  These are conversations that should happen early, and often.  It doesn't have to be complicated, and it doesn't have to be this Big Serious Talk-- the goal is not to scare kids or make them feel like the world and people in general are scary and untrustworthy, but to help teach them about boundaries, their rights, and to know that they can always come to you if something happened that made them uncomfortable or "yucky."

Here is an article with suggestions for how to talk to your children about all this, and also how to recognize signs of potential abuse:

This is not a pleasant or easy topic to write about, and it certainly isn't a pleasant or easy one to talk to our children about... but it is so very important that we do so.  Child abuse festers on silence.  Don't be silent.

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