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How this mom advocates against childhood sexual abuse

We have to believe that it happens

How this mom advocates against childhood sexual abuse

Trigger warning: This article contains a story and description of child sexual abuse.

The very thought of it makes us nauseous. The idea that a child—our child—could be sexually abused is so upsetting that we can't bear to think about it. But the devastating reality is that we must.

I had the honor of speaking to a mother who lived through this. She shared her story here: The story of her son who was sexually abused by his babysitter.

This mother's bravery, candidness and resolve humbled me deeply. And I'll be honest—it took me a long time to sit down and write this article. Because how on earth can you do justice to this family's experience?

The heart-breaking answer is that you can't.

There is nothing that can make this go away for this mother and her family. What we can do though—what she wants—is to share her story.

Since her experience, she has become an advocate, for her family and for others. We are so grateful for her insight on ways to feel empowered and protect your family. Here's what she shared:

1. We have to believe that it happens

Wrapping our minds around the possibility of something awful happening to our children is incredibly difficult. But the first step in preventing it is acknowledging that it could happen. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one out of six boys and one of four girls are sexually abused as children. Eighty-four percent of incidents happen in the child's home, and as many as 95% of the abusers have prior relationships with the families.

The National Center for Victims of Crimes shares that it's also important to know that "child sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact—such abuse could include noncontact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism and child pornography."

Symptoms of child abuse may include genital discomfort or infection, difficult or painful bowel movements, or behavioral signs such as depression, anger, bed-wetting, nightmares, fear or sudden change in activity level.

The scope of this problem is huge. We simply cannot ignore it.

2. No secrets in our family

As abusers will often tell the child to keep their activities a secret, it's important to communicate—to everyone—that your family does not keep secrets. This means telling your children, and anyone who has contact with them, that "our family does not keep secrets."

Differentiate between surprises and secrets. Expert Jayneen Sanders told Motherly, "Talk about 'happy surprises' instead such as not telling Granny about her surprise birthday party. Compare this with 'unsafe' secrets such as someone touching their private parts. Make sure your child knows that if someone does ask them to keep an unsafe secret that they must tell someone."

3. Talk about it. To everyone. A lot.

It's normal to feel uncomfortable about this. Talking about sex, body parts and abuse is simply not something we are used to doing, and it feels awkward—especially when it involves our children. But we have to talk about it. All the time. The way to change the awkwardness of it is to just start.

It gets easier, and eventually, it just becomes second nature.

For the mom I spoke with, this means telling everyone who comes in contact with her kids that they are teaching their kids about body safety and that their family does not keep secrets.

She wrote, "Have this conversation with the adults at school (teachers, aides, principals, tutors), babysitters, your parents and in-laws, your siblings and cousins, camp counselors, parents of your kids' friends (yes, all of your kids' friends), and every other adult or teenager who has access to your kids."

4. Be loud and clear

The mother I spoke to said that one of the most important steps she has taken has been "to unambiguously communicate to everyone around [her] children that we are alert and vigilant and OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT PREY."

The Children's Assessment Center agrees, stating that "Perpetrators frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting and work proactively to establish a trusting relationship before abusing them."

An abuser is less likely to target a child when they know that the family has a firm "we don't keep secrets" policy, and when they know that the family openly and regularly talks about body safety and appropriate relationships.

5. Listen, truly listen

In our very busy lives, it's so easy to half-listen to our kids or dismiss what they are saying as innocent child-ramblings. And while it often is, children may also be trying to tell us something they don't understand or don't have the words to describe.

When your child speaks to you, listen. If something strikes you as unusual or off, dig deeper. You can seek professional help from a counselor to guide you through these conversations. If your alarm bell goes off, listen to it.

6. Teach body safety routinely

The mom wrote, "Body safety" is a concept you need to instill into your child as routinely as you teach them not to touch a hot stove or to look both ways before crossing the street. If you introduce it early enough, it won't even register to them as novel or unusual."

Jayneen Sanders explains that this means:

  • Teaching kids the real names for body parts
  • Talking about the difference between private and public parts of the body
  • Creating a safety network of three to five trusting adults children can talk to
  • Discussing feelings openly, including the feeling of being 'unsafe'
  • Empowering them to tell you when they do feel unsafe

Experts also recommend that we avoid using the terms 'good-touch/bad-touch,' because the truth is that sometimes, 'bad-touch' feels good to a child. Instead, use 'okay touch/not-okay touch,' or 'safe touch/not-safe touch.'

This is overwhelming and so hard to think about. The mom wrote, "If you're panicking right now about the things you haven't done, I'll tell you what the child abuse expert told us: It's never too late to start doing any of this."

So while it's uncomfortable and unknown, we just have to start. One conversation at a time. We have to listen, and we have to support each other. It's not easy. But it's so worth it.

If you or your child are in immediate danger, call 911, or visit The National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, you can learn about how to report it here.

If you have gone through this, please know that you are not alone. And it's not too late for you or your child either. There is help available to you. You can find a list of psychologists and counselors to help you here.

[Originally published June 4, 2018]

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It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

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I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

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Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin


Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

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Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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Balance board

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Detective set

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Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

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Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

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Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

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Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

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Pull-along hippo

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

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