I think this is a good book to start after reading about the MySpace story, although I must admit that I’m a bit freaked out after reading it. I’ll explain as I go.
Mr. De Becker starts his book with a story of a mother and her 8-year-old daughter on a girls night out to dinner and a movie. Without giving away the story, the mom senses danger and doesn’t listen to her intuition. The man who originally made her uncomfortable later attempts to assault them. She fights back and protects herself. And so the book starts…
To tap into this resource, to reinvest in our intuition, to know how to avoid danger, to know, for example, whom to keep our children away from, we must listen to internal warnings while they are still whispers. The voice that knows all about how to protect children may not always be the loudest, but it is the wisest.
This hit me immediately. There is only 1 time that I really recall that feeling. It was at the Christmas Eve service this past year at our church, and the man who was watching my daughter’s class creeped me out. There’s no walls in there, and all of the other classes could hear everything, so I decided to let her stay. It was the first time that she stayed the whole way through. I went in and checked on her a few times without him seeing me, and she seemed fine, but I still had that uneasy feeling. I thought I was doing the right thing by checking on her, but now I wonder…
…when it comes to predicting violence and protecting children, I submit that you already know most of what you need to know. You have the wisdom of the species, and the expert voice that matters most is yours. Yet, society has trained us to believe that we don’t know the answers, that professionals know what’s best and that good parents listen to them. As a result, we have come to believe that we can find certainty outside ourselves. We won’t, of course, but we can find the illusion of certainty, particularly if that’s what we’re willing to settle for.
This is a bit of a theme around here, eh? I couldn’t agree any more!
He then talks about how adults know dangers before they have children, but after children are born, we end up with a list so long it needs an index. Things that used to seem safe like doors, yarn, and pencils are now dangerous indeed. Young parents recognize them and can scan a room for these dangers. Its a natural instinct.
As our kids get older, it can seem more difficult to know what is safe and what is not.
The search for certainty starts and ends within yourself–for example, every time you are open to receive information about your daughter’s new boyfriend, conclude he’s okay, and then don’t torture yourself while she’s out on a date.
Ooh, I know that’ll be tough for me. I’m a big second guesser. As I type this, I’m still wondering about that man who taught the Christmas Eve 2-year-old class, and I don’t even attend that church anymore.
So Gavin (which is easier to write than “Mr. De Becker”) goes on to say that if we meet with a parent and decide to allow our son to stay at their house, then we should trust our instincts that they won’t drive our kids home drunk, for example.
If you think the dad might drive drunk, there’s probably a reason you think it, and it’s worth exploring for a moment. If you think there might be a collection of unsecured guns at their home, your hesitation makes sense. You see, it’s one thing to never get a warning about some risk to our children; it’s quite another to get a signal and then ignore it… You may conclude on further consideration that your hesitation wasn’t called for–but you can give at least a brief consideration to every signal…
Its so hard to know which ones to listen to and which ones to let go! Especially if you’re like me and border on the anxious side
Then we get the first of our difficult-to-swallow-but-good-to-know statistics:
…throughout history, half of all children failed to reach adulthood. Half. The odds are far better for children in America today, but the truth remains that childhood is safe only when adults make it so.
If you are a woman with a young child, you’ll learn in these pages that it is you and not your child who is most often the predatory prize, you who are more likely to attract violence, and you must know what it looks like.
I know that feeling. I had it just yesterday. Please note, I am not at all saying in this story that how a woman dresses means that men will attack her!
Yesterday I had to run to the supermarket. We needed a few quick things. I spent the day cleaning and painting, and we live in a town where most people do not have air conditioning. We don’t have central A/C. I had on a hippie top that criss-crosses in the back (so its an open back) and a while tiered skirt that borders on see-through. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, but I didn’t feel sleazy either.
So I went to the store, felt fine, and as I was walking out there was a man who walked out behind me. I could feel him looking at me. I started walking faster and he did too. He made a bit of a whistle, so I sped up some more. He made another sound and I reached my car and he had turned another direction. That was the first time in a few months that I had felt that feeling – a feeling that I often felt in my teens – and I was a bit shaken by it.
I get the same feeling on this one section of trail if I go jogging, and as a result I’ve stopped jogging there. Its heavily wooded and below a highway, so no one would hear if something went wrong. I understand the need to listen to that inner voice, but sometimes I ignore it. And now I’m feeling guilty about that guy on Christmas Eve again
So then, just in time, Gavin talks about how worrying is bad. Worry keeps you focused on the wrong things and then you end up missing the real thing. OK, OK, I hear ya…
Then he talks about an example of a conversation with the kind of person who likes to deny things
“You’re so right,” the denier says, “sexual abuse is an enormous problem, particularly for young teens. Thank God mine aren’t there yet.”
No, sorry, says reality, the most common age at which sexual abuse begins is three.
“Well, sure, if you have homosexuals around small children, there’s a risk.”
No, sorry, says reality, nearly 100 percent of sexual abuse is committed by heterosexual males.
“Yeah, but that kind of pervert isn’t living in our neighborhood.”
Sorry, says reality, but that kind of pervert is living in your neighborhood. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that on average, there is one child molester per square mile.
“Well, at least the police know who those people are.”
Not likely, says reality, since the average child molester victimizes between thirty and sixty children before he is ever arrested.
Now I want to throw up. Seriously. I want to throw up. 3?! 30 to 60 kids?! I’m glad I know this, but it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I’ve known that the stats were 1-in-3 women and 1-in-6 men who are molested or raped, and this is something I’ve thought about. I’ve thought about the odds. I’m a numbers kind of girl, y’know? I was a math major. If I have 4 kids, that makes it highly likely that someone would be assaulted. If not, then some family is getting a larger-than-average amount of abuse, which also saddens me. I don’t know. Numbers can be bad sometimes.
I like what he says next though
…the solution to violence in America is not more laws, more guns, more police, or more prisons. The solution to violence is acceptance of reality.
From there, you can hear the messengers of intuition. From there, you can evaluate risk and organize defenses. Reality is the highest ground you can find–and the safest–because from there you can see what’s coming.
…Taking deep breaths… OK.
He closes the chapter with great thoughts about our society and how we respond in fear. I really recommend reading it.
As I go to bed tonight, I might need to pray a little extra. I always prefer knowledge to denial, but sometimes it takes me a little while to process. Candice and I were talking about something similar the other day. I had listened to the Compassionate Cooks podcast on dairy farming and we talked about the horrors that those animals live through. She had no idea and didn’t really want to know. The fact is that it happens whether you know or not. If you know, then you can act. That is truly living.
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