With such a heavy theme for this issue, we knew parents would come down to the questions of, “What exactly do I teach when?” and “How do I protect my children?” We reached out to Dr. George Hu to answer one of those questions, and turned to trusted sources for the other.
Safe Touch Presentations and Sources of Abuse
Though Hu now lives and practices in Shanghai as the Director of Mental Health at Jiahui International Healthcare, many should be familiar with his “Safe Touch” presentations that he gave to international schools in Beijing. The purpose of these presentations was to educate children about the difference between safe, comfortable, and wanted touch, compared to the type of touch that doesn’t make them feel good anymore.
With a small team and puppets, Hu would explain these concepts to children as young as kindergarten, though Hu mentioned preschool wasn’t too early. “We would have a follow-up presentation after the first initial workshop since students need reinforcement of these topics,” Hu said. At time of publication, we were unaware of other institutions that offer “Safe Touch” presentations in Beijing, but when asked if a health-professional is required to lead these presentations, Hu responded that anyone could lead them with the right training.
Although teaching about safe practices with strangers is important in child protection, Hu noted that in the majority of cases of sexual abuse, regardless of nationality, someone familiar to the family, such as a friend or tutor, or a family member, such as a father or older cousin, is most likely to be the perpetrator. The toughest situation is when fathers are involved. In one case, Hu said that extra support was needed for the family, as the mother of the victim needed emotional and legal help in order to protect her children from further sexual harm. Chinese law has measures of protection if a Chinese adult will champion the case for an underage Chinese victim, but prosecutions can collapse due to jurisdictions of police departments. Hu recounted one case where a student lived in an outlying town of Beijing, the perpetrator was a foreign teacher, and the abuse took place in Beijing. The specific police department responsible was not clear to the authorities involved.
There is, however, more that can be done if a perpetrator is an American citizen. “It is a priority for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to apprehend and prosecute US citizens who engage in sexual acts with minors in foreign countries,” stated ICE website. The PROTECT Act and the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Reauthorization Act together carry penalties of up to 30 years in prison for child sex tourism. HSI has 73 offices in 47 foreign countries around the world, and their cases have convicted perpetrators in situations where expats were volunteering or working in other countries. HSI is deeply serious about overseeing the reaches of this law, stating in their news release, “There will be no refuge for child sexual predators who believe that they may victimize children outside the United States. No place is too distant or too remote to escape the attention of HSI.”
Issues of the Tech Age
Outside of sexual abuse from someone in the position of authority, Hu pointed out that parents should be educated about slut-shaming and cyberbullying (turn to page 48 to learn more about cyberbullying). Interestingly, “slut-shaming is when gossip and comments, online or offline, are targeted at another peer in order to shame them for behavior or clothing.” Though the targets are almost always girls, the bullies tend to be an even ratio of 50:50 males to females. Comments are as seemingly trivial as “I can’t believe she wore that shirt; it shows off too much,” to more serious comments or pictures that shame a female for behavior (whether true or not) that others find as non-traditional sexual behaviors.
Teachers, parents, and students should be diligent in the discussions about what these types of behaviors are and why they are unacceptable. Students should also be equipped with phrases and conflict resolution strategies to communicate that they are uncomfortable with the behavior of another, and when to recognize that more help is needed and how to get that help (turn to page 40 for more information about school resources).
In summary, to protect your children against sexual abuse, the best way is through early and frequent, educational and age-appropriate conversations. We’ve used trusted online sources, such as the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), to pull together a couple of charts to help you understand what exactly to talk about, and at what stage. The NSVRC was founded by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and is funded through a cooperative agreement from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence. We’ve also turned to Safely Ever After, website of Pattie Fitzgerald, who came up with the concepts around “Tricky People” rather than the infamously unhelpful “stranger danger.” Her nuggets of insight explain the difference between people who could cause harm and people who will help.
This article originally appeared on page 54-56 of beijingkids 2017 February Issue. Download the digital version here.