April 12, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

‘Mummy, what’s child abuse..?’

question mark

‘Mummy, what’s child abuse..?’

This what my eldest son asked the other day whilst we were eating dinner. To say I was a little taken aback was an understatement and I quickly asked (a little too hysterically tight lipped) ‘Why????’ He said he’d heard it on the radio and although I think my sigh was audible to everyone it had still really worried me.

My child? Saying those words that strike terror in the heart of any parent? He’s 9 and over the last few weeks he’s suddenly grown up it seems as we’ve talked about drugs, why people smoke (if they know it’s really bad for them), and he’s asked what’s ‘being gay?’ Now I’m one who thinks that if the child has asked the question then they need to be given a proper answer as this is only respectful really. I feel brushing a child off with a ‘Oh I don’t know’ or ‘I’m busy at the moment, ask me later’ really isn’t what they want to hear and it means they may get their answers from someone else who might not think the way you do or explain it at the level your child is at. Having quickly thought about all this I launched into what child abuse was…

In the news recently a violinist had committed suicide during a trial of her abuser from her time at a famous music school. Though she was married and a mother of 4 her past haunted her and being called a ‘fantasist’ by the prosecution in the case was just too much and she felt that she could no longer cope. I had a conversation with someone who also went to the same school -at a later stage but my friend still had the same teacher as the mother of 4. Now the teacher didn’t directly abuse my friend but she still had dubious notes written on her music and other examples of where the teacher/pupil relationship was blurred. This astounded me. I asked her why she didn’t complain, did she tell anyone and she simply said; no, we didn’t know it was wrong.

This got me thinking. If teenaged girls didn’t know what a male adult teacher was doing was wrong what hope does a 9 year boy have? My son is 9 and trusts everyone which is something I’ve always loved about him. His world is still rosy even though I have tackled the ‘stranger danger’ idea but just in a gentle way. I knew this question was the way into keeping him safe although it was going to shatter his view of the world…

I started by explaining that there are 4 types of abuse; emotional, physical, sexual and neglect. I explained that emotional abuse was where someone was being nasty to someone and making them feel awful about themselves. That this would go on over days, months and years and it would really effect how someone felt about themselves. I said that physical abuse was where someone hurt someone by hitting them, grabbing them, slapping them and again this could be carried on over time but it could also be something that happened once a month, once a year but it would still be physical abuse. I said that neglect was where someone may not have clean clothes, not enough food to eat and that they may not have the things that other people/children of their age might have. I explained this could be a bed to sleep on or clothes and shoes that fit or it could be that their parents are just not interested in what their child is doing. The last category was, for me, the hardest to explain but I felt it important because my boys spend 6 hours away from me every day whilst they are at school and although I trust their teachers I want to know that if ever they were in a situation they even thought wasn’t right they could remember our conversation and use their judgement.

I told them that sexual abuse was when someone touched them in a place where they really had no business being. In our family my children collapse about in fits of giggles if I use the word ‘penis’ so we refer to all our private parts as ‘bit and bobs’  so I said that no one should be looking at, touching or going near their bits and bobs. If they hurt themselves and it needed to be checked then an adult at school should wait for another adult before they take a look. I explained this is to make sure that no one does anything they shouldn’t (and no child says something happened that didn’t) and that the boys knew that there were procedures that should be followed.

I also explained that if anyone did do anything they might say that if they told anyone then they would hurt them or that they might hurt Mummy and Daddy. I wanted them to know that this is the type of language and threats that paedophiles use to frighten their victims into not telling anyone. I told them that we would love them no matter what happens in life and that they must never be scared of upsetting us by telling us something they think we might not like.

I said that I respected that he (Ollie) wanted privacy now when he was getting changed (I thought this was an appropriate time to bring this up) but that if he ever had any worries or concerns over his ‘bits and bobs’ then it was still okay to ask us about that and it’s okay for us to have a look, if he wanted us to. I said that we would never force him to show us anything. I said that if he ever wanted to ask any questions about anything then that was fine too…

By this time I had lost Tobes. He’s 3 and not that interested. He’d finished his meal and went off to play but Henny (5) stayed and grasped the rough idea of what was going on. He got that people shouldn’t touch him in his private places and that, for me, is enough at the moment. He did think it hilarious though when I said that the world is full of amazingly lovely people but there are just a few who aren’t very nice and as they don’t have ‘I’m not very nice’ tattooed on their forehead we just need to be a little careful until we get to know them and we need to make sure we know where we should and shouldn’t be touched. The idea of anyone having ‘I’m not very nice’ tattooed on their forehead was just hilarious so much so it was quoted at a bemused Hubbie when he walked through the door.

I want my children to go on living in their perfect world where all Mummies and Daddies are lovely and all adults are just fab but in reality the world isn’t like that and I would be doing them harm to not warn them of the potential of nastiness but done in a child friendly, at their level, way. There’s been so much coverage about Jimmy Saville over the past few months and I believe that telling your children about how adults can behave, making sure they know what is right and what is wrong and, more importantly letting them know the type of language and things paedophiles say is arming them for when I’m not with them.  If bad things occur alarm bells will hopefully ring though I don’t ever want them to be in the position where they should.

It seems we are well and truly past the ‘Why is the sky blue?’ questions and are now going into the more abstract and difficult ideas and concept type questions. Just how do you answer ‘How do you know when you’re in love?’ All I can hope for is that by being honest and answering the questions as simply and ‘as-matter-of-factly’ as I can I can keep the communication channels open for as long as possible and really, as we approach teenaged hood in the 21st century, that’s something that we all hope for…

Picture is from



1 Comment

  • Another great post!

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