Our neighbor is a convicted pedophile. He is currently in state prison for molesting his best friend’s daughter. He began sexually assaulting the child beginning at the age of six until she was in her early teens.
I only know this because a friend of mine’s wife is best friends with one of the pedophile’s daughters. After my friend told me the story, I verified it by finding the newspaper accounts and cross-checking with the PA Megan’s Law website. Our neighbor is classified as a “sexually violent predator”.
One day, he may return home. I don’t know when that will be. We’re not looking forward to it. We’ll need to have some discussions with our daughters (and sons) that we’re not eager to have. But have them we will.
Now, why do I tell you this story? Because the victim could have been helped. Her family often spent time with her abuser’s family. They went for overnight stays. They went camping together. The families took group vacations. And the victim always protested.
She recounted how she would become hysterical. She would cry. She would refuse to go. She did not possess the words to say what was being done to her. Perhaps she didn’t feel comfortable discussing such an intimate violation with her parents. So, she protested in other ways. Her parents either could not or would not ascertain why she was so reluctant to spend time with her abuser’s family.
I don’t know the girl’s parents. My intent is not to throw them under the bus. Maybe they did the best they could. I do wish to stress, however, that too often children cannot verbalize their concerns. What appears to a parent to be an unreasonable reluctance to go somewhere or to do something may have a deeper meaning.
Not all children who express unwillingness to visit a grandparent, an uncle, a neighbor, or a friend are being abused. In fact, most of them aren’t. But that doesn’t mean the child’s concerns should be ignored. As much as possible, a parent should try to get to the root of a child’s recalcitrance.
Listen to your child. Patiently ask questions. And please, don’t simply brush-off your child’s concerns. He/she may be trying to tell you something very, very important.