These are people whom we hold a level of respect for that may or may not work with children. We want to believe they are responsible, good, caring people. Rabbis, teachers, doctors, policemen, business owners, coaches, youth leaders, tutors, clergy, babysitters, caretakers, etc.
We must accept that these people are just that – people. We cannot blindly assume that the position they hold or the job they have is a guarantee that the people they serve are in their best interest. From scandals involving religious leaders, pediatricians, police, even child psychologists – their position is not a guarantee that they are not at risk to abuse.
Handling Situations With Professional Service Providers
- First off, if you don’t get a good feeling from a doctor, dentist, therapist, etc., and if you are allowed to change/choose a different provider through your insurance – do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s a once a year visit or not – you should feel confident in the person caring for your child and comfortable trusting their guidance. Doctors are not made from a mold, they are all different and exercise different recommendations for various situations. Remember, they’re human. Now, with the internet, it’s also possible to search doctors to see what types of reviews people have written about them. Every bit of information can help.
- Trips to a pediatrician’s office should include your presence in the room during an examination. Even when in the room – pay attention to what is going on. Pediatricians have been known to inappropriately touch children even while the parent was in the room, but distracted reading a magazine etc. If you’re being asked to leave the room, you should feel confident that it’s for a very good reason, and if possible, ask for a medical assistant to take your place. If your gut is telling you that there is no good reason to leave your child alone with a doctor – don’t. Speak up. You are your child’s guardian, not the pediatrician.
- Dentist offices can be trickier since the rooms are not always set up to hold many people. The best option is an office that has an open room for pediatric patients or doors with windows, multiple hygienists with staff and other patients coming and going. Even if you cannot stay with your young child, you can feel more comfortable knowing there are people who can see what is going on.
- If your child requires psychological therapy, you must first be mindful of your child’s emotional state. Children that are enduring stress/depression, etc. are at an increased risk to be targeted for abuse. It is horrifying to think that the very people who study and train to help children could be so remorseless in their perpetrating of such vulnerable people. Unfortunately, it happens, even in school systems where parents often have less involvement/oversight to the circumstances/location of offices. While the presence of a parent may not be in the best interest of a child in therapy, visual contact is the least we can expect from a provider – whether by a window or closed circuit camera. It is their responsibility to make us feel confident in them, they should not expect us to simply take a leap of faith because of their degree or popularity of their practice.
- Schools systems, and especially school buildings, were not designed with preventing child sexual abuse in mind. Classrooms and teacher/staff offices are often not very visible – for the sake of keeping children focused, but this also puts greater responsibility on teachers to respect their role and authority in relation to their students. While we can’t exactly expect a school to tear down walls – we can ask about their code of conduct in regard to teacher/student interactions and how they address the issue of reducing opportunity for abuse. Most schools are required to have policies & protocol when it comes to reporting abuse (and whether they follow it is a whole other issue), but it’s not required, in most states, that teachers & staff be educated on preventing child sexual abuse. Statistics support that abuse of children by adults in school settings is far from uncommon.
We change this by exercising our voices and demanding better safety standards for our kids. Schools generally are not rushing to add more policies and training procedures for staff because it costs money, takes time, creates paperwork and, despite the fact that it may make the environment safer for kids, it adds work for staff that may already feel overwhelmed by other requirements. It’s up to us to insist that the very schools that expect us to trust them with our kids make us confident they are doing their best.
Sections on this page have been adapted from TheMamaBearEffect