Question: My daughter has a friend who has a single dad. They want to have a sleepover at her house. My daughter is eleven years old. I would like to know if it would be appropriate to let her go to the sleepover. I am more than willing to let them have a sleepover at my house anytime.
Answer: Except on occasions when you are sure that your child will be safe, I would not suggest that you allow your daughter—or your son—to spend the night in a home where there is not a mother you trust. The father in that situation may be a fine man, but he is not the only reason for caution. Remember that kids sometimes molest younger kids, as do older brothers and their friends. This is why I believe that the day for sleepovers has passed. There is just too much at stake to put children at risk in this way.
Sadly, the world has changed in the last few decades, and it is no longer a safe place for children. Pedophiles and child molesters are more pervasive than ever. That is why parents must be diligent to protect their kids every hour of the day and night. Some little tykes have actually been abducted from their bedrooms while their parents were in the house. The name of Polly Klaas comes to mind, the twelve-year-old girl who was assaulted and murdered after being taken from her home during a slumber party in 1993.6
Until you have dealt with little victims as I have and seen the pain in their eyes, you might not fully appreciate the devastation inflicted by molestation. It casts a long shadow on everything that follows, including future marital relationships. Therefore, parents have to think the unthinkable in every situation. The threat can come from anywhere—including neighbors, uncles, stepfathers, grandfathers, Sunday school teachers, coaches, music instructors, Scout leaders, and babysitters. Even public bathrooms can be dangerous today.
The state of Colorado, in a misguided effort to end what the legislators called discrimination, made it legal for cross-dressing men and homosexuals to use women's restrooms.7 Is that ridiculous or what? A little girl or a single woman can be using the facilities when, without warning, a man comes in unannounced. Can you imagine the terror and embarrassment a child could experience in that situation? Sadly, few people in Colorado have objected to the ridiculous law.
Now, here is the ultimate challenge. You as a parent have to figure out how to shield your kids from danger without overprotecting them or making them fearful. That is called being between a rock and a hard place. You can begin by teaching your kids the difference between a "good touch" and a "bad touch," urging them to never talk to strangers, and telling them to scream when approached, etc. At the same time, however, you must be careful not to make them feel that you are fearful or that their loved ones and teachers are trying to hurt them. Shepherding them between these two harmful alternatives requires great skill and wisdom.
You should know that pedophiles are usually adept at drawing children into their clutches. They tend to gravitate toward malls, pizza restaurants, amusement parks, and even chat rooms where unsupervised boys and girls hang out. They can spot a kid who is lonely in a matter of minutes, and they offer them the "love" and attention they crave. Once these creeps have established a relationship with them, the abuse is easy and lasts an average of seven years. Amazingly, the children usually don't tell anyone about the abuse out of fear and intimidation. Some pedophiles become so masterful at this technique that they abuse, on average, 280 children in a lifetime.8
Don't let your boy or girl be one of them! Protect them, and meet the needs that make them vulnerable!
Question: What about leaving your kids with babysitters? Is that wise?
Answer: I think it is relatively safe to leave children with mature adolescent girls, although they should be told they cannot invite their boyfriends to come over. I would not recommend leaving kids of either sex with teenage boys since there is so much going on sexually within males at that age. Although there might be no problem most of the time, you must do all that you can to make sure that the devastation of child abuse does not occur even once in your daughter's entire childhood.
Question: My husband works in law enforcement and has several days off work in a row. I work full time Monday through Friday. Therefore, it is my husband who volunteers in our kids' classrooms. A little girl wants to come to our house for a sleepover with my daughter during a time when only my daughter and my husband will be home. The mom of the other girl does not have an issue with it. However, I do not think this is appropriate. What do you think?
Answer: The motives of your husband are probably entirely honorable. But once again, I think it would not be wise to allow the little girl to sleep over. The potential for disaster, though unlikely, is just too great. I would always err on the side of caution, not only protecting the child, but also preventing any damage to your husband's reputation. Perhaps I am being overprotective here, but it is much better to be safe than sorry.
Question: Why has pedophilia become such a serious problem? Are there really more cases of child sexual abuse now than in the past, or is the reporting mechanism just better?
Answer: Reporting systems are better, I'm sure, but the incidence of molestation has increased exponentially. It has resulted primarily from the proliferation of obscenity on the Internet, including illegal child pornography. Pedophiles try to obtain DVDs or photographs of nude children, taken while they are being assaulted if possible. Those images can then be sold or traded to other child molesters.
I am well acquainted with this tragedy because of my service on the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography from 1985 to 1986. During that time, I witnessed materials from the FBI that I will never be able to forget, including photographs of an eight-year-old boy taken while he was being murdered. I can't get those images out of my mind. During that same meeting, a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Barry Lynn, who is now executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the commission it was the position of the ACLU that child pornography should not be produced, but once it exists, there should be no restriction on its sale or distribution.9
If the ACLU had had its wretched way, a child who was being horribly molested under the watchful eye of a camera could do nothing to stop those images from being sold on the open market for the rest of his or her life. The most terrible experience of a child's lifetime would become a pornographer's gold mine. The commissioners were aghast at this testimony.
You must understand this: obscenity is highly addictive and progressive in nature. What begins as an attraction to soft-core porn gradually changes the individual who lusts over it, leading to ever harder and more perverse obsessions. Thus, porn addicts are transformed from having what might be called "normal" sexuality to a passion for increasingly perverse material, such as heterosexual and homosexual violence, the abuse of women, bestiality, necrophilia (sex with the dead), and very commonly today, child pornography. This is where the perversions often originate. It is what led serial killer Ted Bundy, whom I interviewed seventeen hours before his execution in the Florida State Penitentiary, to murder more than thirty women and girls. The last victim before his arrest and conviction was a twelve-year-old girl whom he killed and left in a pigsty.10
Though the media rarely reveals the connection, pornography is almost always involved in cases of abduction and murder of boys and girls. This is why these horrendous crimes are occurring more commonly today. When the facts are known, obscene materials are typically found in the houses or garages of the perpetrators. What this means is that moms and dads must be eternally vigilant in protecting their kids. Let me say it one more time. I recommend that you take no unnecessary chances, whether during sleepovers, in the mall, in public restrooms, in neighbors' houses, or on the way home from school.
6.See http://www.pollyklaas.org/about/pollys-story.html. 7.Colorado State Assembly SB200; see http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2008a/csl.nsf/
8.United States Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, Final Report (July 1986); see http://www.porn-report.com; G. Able, et al, "Self-Reported Sex Crimes of Nonincarcerated
Paraphiliacs," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2 (1987): 3–25; see http://www. mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/82/4/457.full#sec-3; Patrick Goodenough, "Online Porn Driving Sexually Aggressive Children," CNSNews.com (November 26, 2003).
9.New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747; see http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_ CR_0458_0747_ZS.html.
10.See http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/c/culver_lynette.html; http://www.time.com/time/2007/ crimes/14.html.
Book: Bringing Up Girls
By Dr. James Dobson