We have all felt the impact of the Coronavirus in our lives, but none more than the victim of abuse who may be quarantined with their abuser.
As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know what it feels like to live with a perpetrator, and I know how important any time away from home was to me during that time. School serves as a safe place for many children who experience various forms of abuse at home – it is a reprieve and a refuge. With schools moving to virtual learning from home as a protective measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus, the reality is that many children are now home for long periods with the person abusing them.
My father began grooming me around age eight and sexually abused me from the ages of 12 – 19 years old. He was a well-respected pastor in our community. No one would have expected him to be a predator. He was a smart man who used charm and manipulation to deceive others. Being stuck in the same space with the person who caused me the most fear was one of the most helpless feelings I experienced as an adolescent. We both knew that his actions were wrong, but neither one of us wanted to acknowledge it. It was hard for me to believe that a man who was supposed to love and protect me was the one who was hurting me.
Across the country, children are in similar situations today. They are in shared spaces with the individuals who violate them or who are seeking that opportunity. Some parents believe or know that their children are at risk and have used school and extracurricular activities to minimize the opportunity for abuse by increasing time away from home. Today, I’m sure those parents are feeling the pressure to identify new ways to keep their children safe. Some parents may not feel empowered to leave abusive environments. They may not have anywhere else to go or don’t have access to resources to help them leave. In situations like that, the responsible adult must be constantly thinking about ways to keep the child safe.
To avoid my abuser, I had to think two steps ahead. I knew what I would do with every moment of the day. For me, the key was staying busy. As the responsible adult, here are a few ideas that can help you protect the children around you in times like these:
- Update the house rules to reflect children being home more and change or create new rules that reflect this new reality. These should include things like which areas of the house are off-limits (basements, attics, etc.), rules around closed doors (no uninterruptible time when multiple people are in a room together), as well as bathroom privacy.
- Focus on group activities and keeping everyone together as much as possible. Use homeschooling as a chance to create a formal schedule that limits isolation as much as possible and stick to it. Activities that can be fun to share include cooking, cleaning, drawing and coloring, watching movies, and exercising. While this may be easier during the day, remember that fun activities like living-room camping at night can help keep family together during bedtime as well.
- Revisit your online safety rules and ensure that children know what not to share online. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s NetSmartz is a great resource to add to any homeschooling you may be doing. It’s fun for kids and informative!
- We need to be prepared to continue protecting kids to the best of our ability under any circumstances. The Protecting Children During a Crisis online training is designed to help you navigate through the unusual circumstances you might face during times of crisis. It will help you consider your current strategies, help you identify the new situation, and help you change your strategy. You can access it online at no cost by registering here.
- Keep the lines of communication open with children. A quick lesson in proper handwashing can turn into a chat about body safety, or any topic that contributes to meaningful discussion together. These conversations help build a sense of trust, safety, and reliance in children. For more information or strategies for talking with kids, you can access our 30-minute “Talking with Children” online training at no charge by registering here and using code Talk2020.
Keeping kids safe requires that we’re prepared in all situations, whether they are routine or out of the ordinary. As a survivor, I want to say thank you for your courage and commitment to protect children, even in the most challenging circumstances. It makes a difference in ways you may never know.
Looking for resources or support? Call 866.FOR.LIGHT or text LIGHT to 741741 to have questioned answered or chat with a trained crisis counselor, 24/7 at no charge. All conversations are confidential.
Ashley Davis is a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator, motivational speaker, author, and Darkness to Light’s Director of Partnerships. After receiving much backlash for disclosing her child sexual abuse experiences and naming her abuser, she realized there was an opportunity to help others navigate through disclosure. She is particularly passionate about prevention efforts within the faith-based community. Her story of resilience has opened opportunities for her to establish and maintain strong relationships with many faith-based and non-profit organizations throughout the United States. Her charismatic personality creates a unique, fun, and engaging experience for every person who encounters her. She is the mother of a teenage daughter who is heavily involved in her own advocacy initiatives.
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