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When we’re super focused on our kiddos being polite to the friends and family we haven’t seen years, it’s easy to forget that our kids have a right to personal boundaries…just like we do.

🌟 When your child doesn’t want a kiss from Grandma? That’s okay. There are other ways to show Grandma she is loved or appreciated.

🌟 When your child doesn’t want to be tickled? STOP means stop and NO means no. No matter who the tickler is and no matter how much they are “just having some fun!”

🌟 When your child doesn’t want to sit on so-and-so’s lap? That’s okay. How would you like it if someone made you sit on someone’s lap when you didn’t want to?

People may tell you to ⚡️lighten up, ⚡️that you’re being too sensitive, or ⚡️accuse you of not trusting anyone. My answer to that…So?

Don’t worry about what others think when you are doing right by your child.

Love,
Me 💜

Your Body Belongs To YOU!

The first step in teaching children about Body Safety is the foundational message of “YOUR BODY BELONGS TO YOU.” We can start using those words and modeling that behavior at any stage of a child’s development…it’s never too early and it’s never too late.

We can use the infant years as the time to introduce this message/philosophy. For example, when you change your baby’s diaper you can say, “I’m going to wipe your penis right now, to get it clean.” Or, “Is it okay if I wipe your penis now to get it clean?” He/she/they won’t understand your words or your deeds, but they will eventually recognize a pattern which will become a family habit…a way of doing things.

It’s also never too late to introduce the message to your children…whether they are toddler, school-age or high school. If your child is young enough, you can just start introducing this message and modeling the behavior without any explanation.  If your child is middle school or older, try saying something, “I read something today that I really like and I want to share it with you…”

How do you reinforce this Body Safety message on an ongoing basis?

  • Don’t make your children hug and kiss anyone they don’t want to.  Anyone.
  • If your child is upset, ask him/her/them how they would like to be consoled. Ask if they would like you to hug them. *Sidenote: I understand that this might sound or feel awkward, but I promise  you it’s not.  My daughter doesn’t like hugs and I’m a BIG hugger! When she is sad or upset, I actually ask her if she wants me to hug her. Sometimes she tells me ‘yes’ and sometimes she tells me ‘no.’  It defeats the purpose if I’m causing anxiety for her when I’m trying to console her.
  • If you are a coach, ask your athlete if it is okay to spot them a certain way or touch them a certain way to adjust a movement.

So, what are you waiting for? You can start today!

Want more tips to prevent child sexual abuse in your family or organization? Email me at toby@starkcg.net to schedule a call or follow me on Instagram @tobystarkpreention.

I have been disingenuous with you. And it’s time for me to come clean.

When I read the news headlines about the sexual abuse and harassment that members of our National Women’s Soccer League have been enduring, I felt the all-too-familiar twist in the pit of my stomach. I sighed and thought to myself, “Again.” Then I wondered, “How bad does it have to get before things change? How many more people have to get hurt?”

I felt defeated.

Though this isn’t ‘child sexual abuse’ because these women are over 18 years old, it is representative of a much deeper issue. These experiences didn’t happen in a vacuum and they didn’t happen overnight.

I later read a post on Glennon Doyle’s Instagram page about those who knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.  Same song; different verse.

But, I paused to read some of the 1,272 comments. I read disclosure after disclosure…women sharing the child sexual abuse they suffered when they played sports as children and teens. Most of these women were girls competing at an elite and/or collegiate level and too many disclosed their abuse when it happened and were told to keep it to themselves because of the harm it would do to their prestigious coach’s reputation or because the family needed that coach’s connections for the best collegiate program, the scholarship or placement on the National Team. Comment after comment after comment…

This rage started to boil within me, and it filled me with tears. My heart hurt.

I have worked with and spoken with many youth sports organizations and coaches who are doing this right; who are making sacrifices for the absolute betterment of our children.  Bless them. Truly.

But my thoughts couldn’t go there…my thoughts kept returning to the youth sports organizations who didn’t want to do this work of child sexual abuse prevention because……

…if we do this training, won’t parents think we have a problem?

…we’re right in the middle of the season, can we talk in a few months?

…the season just ended and we’re already starting to prepare for next season, can we talk in a few months?

…we already ask so much of our volunteer coaches, I just don’t think we could ask them to do one more thing.

Would you like me to go one?  Because, I can.

Too many youth sports organizations close their door to this hard work. Too many coaches talk about how there is nothing more important than the safety of their athletes, but can’t seem to get a training on their personal calendar.

For crying out loud!

ONE IN 10 CHILDREN ARE SEXUALLY ABUSED BY THEIR 18TH BIRTHDAY AND 90% OF THOSE CHILDREN ARE ABUSED BY SOMEONE THEY KNOW, LOVE AND TRUST!

That right there should be enough of a reason. But just in case it’s not, there are plenty of other reasons.

I could talk about how it’s highly likely your organization won’t be able to get insurance if you don’t take some proactive measures to mitigate risk. I could talk about the PR nightmare that results from an allegation of abuse in an organization that could have/should have done so much more. I could talk about how that PR nightmare will likely close down your organization and dry up your funding.

I knew that this was, what’s called, a teachable moment. So I sat down to make a quick video for each day of this week that had one important and practical thing we can each do to prevent child sexual abuse in youth sports. Something easy for people to digest.

Child sexual abuse prevention is a difficult topic; these conversations can be triggering and scary. I truly believe in meeting people where they are and helping them move forward, from wherever their starting point is. This is so important to me that it’s one of my company’s Guiding Principles.

So that’s what I tried to do. I didn’t want to scare people off; I wanted to educate and empower. You know…move the needle. And I posted possibly the worst video I’ve ever done in my life.

Because I was trying to act like this:

When I really felt like this:

What else do people need to know to make a change? To stop talking and start doing? To step through the discomfort because…well…their discomfort in discussing this is a walk in the park compared to the ‘discomfort’ of one of our children being sexually abused.

What else can I possibly say?

4 Reasons Why Background Checks Get More Credit Than They Deserve

If I had a nickel for every time I was told, very proudly and boldy, “We do background checks” when I signed up my kids for a sports team, summer camp or afterschool program…

Well, I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

You see, background checks get a lot more credit than they deserve.

Why, you ask? I have 4 good answers, but the most important one is: 

A background check reveals only when a person has been convicted of a crime. Not arrested for a crime and not when there is a plea bargain. (BTW, plea bargains happen quite a lot in child sexual abuse cases to prevent the child from having to testify in front of their abuser.)

Think for just a minute how many child predators actually get caught. Then think about how often there is enough evidence to arrest a person; and charge them; and then convict them.

Additionally, an individual could be arrested multiple times, but if they are never convicted, their background check comes back squeaky clean.

Reasons #2, #3, and #4 that background checks are too heavily relied upon: Background checks are not created equally. For example, does the background check…

flag felonies and misdemeanors? Or just felonies?

search a national data base? Or just state or county records?

flag convictions other than crimes against children? Domestic violence? Indecent exposure?

So, do I think background checks are useless?  Absolutely not. They are a very important part of the hiring process. They just shouldn’t be the entire hiring process. 

Youth serving organizations need to research and be very intentional about what level of background check they are using with their candidates, and parents need to be informed what exactly is searched and what is not.

Background checks are a very important data point, but they are most effective as one data point in a comprehensive hiring process.

Next time you sign up your child for an activity, be sure to ask about their child protection policies and when they proudly and boldly answer, “We do background checks!” you can now ask them what kind.

 And your child will be safer for it.

Dear Mom/Dad:

I know you’re just trying to protect me, but how come we don’t ever talk about what’s happening to the kids I read about in the news? You may not realize it, but I see the news all day long…every time I check my Instagram and Snapchat, or pull up Google.  And practically every day I see where some grown up is getting arrested for touching a kid; you know…on their privates.

I’m super confused about it because usually it’s a grown up that the kid knows…like a coach, teacher or minister. Even sometimes their own parents or step-parents! OMG.

Could this happen to me? What should I do if it does? We’ve never talked about this, so I don’t even know if you know about this. Would I get in trouble for letting it happen? I know you’re just trying to protect me, but I wish I knew what to do or who I could talk to.

Love –

Your son/daughter