With seven recent cases of sexual abuse in our city’s schools, parents are on high alert. Ama Dwimoh is a former prosecutor for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the creator of a bureau that exclusively handled the sexual, physical abuse and murders of children under the age of eleven. Dwimoh talked to The Brooklyn Ink and offered these insights:
What can parents do to create a safer environment?
-Parents and all responsible adults must pay attention. Know who is around your child—who has access and an opportunity to betray your trust
-Create an environment for your child that embraces truth. There should be nothing that your child is afraid to tell you. Simply, we–as a family have no secrets
-Remind your child from time to time that there is no one more important to you than they are
-Follow your intuition
It’s all about creating a safety net around your children and also paying attention to the actions and behaviors of the adults around your child, and your child’s responses to adults.
Warning signs to look for:
-Problems sleeping—fear of the nighttime or of going home or to a particular location
-Eating disorders, poor hygiene, inappropriate dress
-Depression, listlessness, extended periods of sadness
-Sexually inappropriate behavior
Although these are possible indicators that something may be wrong in your child’s life, you know your child best. There is no better investment of your time than to pay attention to your child and not just what is actually being said, but what is not. Look at all the circumstances and always encourage and maintain an open and honest dialogue with your child.
What should you do when a child says he or she has been abused
Once a child has disclosed abuse, he or she must be protected and put in a safe environment, and the authorities need to become involved. Victims of these types of crimes must be supported and provided with counseling by therapists who specialize in this subject matter.
Every child victim must be reminded (along with their respective families)—it’s not their fault. We don’t blame children for the criminal actions of the predators that abuse them. It’s a child’s basic civil right to be cherished, protected and to live free of abuse at the hands of any abuser.
When children are victims of sexual abuse, its more than a betrayal of trust—it’s a crime.