When Emilie was born I was amazed at how fiercely protective I became over her immediately. The momma bear mentality was something that I never experienced before but yet also instantly understood. Especially about one point in particular. Growing up, Robbie and I both knew of family members who had been sexually molested at a young age. We both understood very clearly that the danger was real and unfortunately more common than people understand. We wanted to prepare our girls for this harsh reality as best as we could. We knew to do so we needed to be very sensitive and caring but at the same time empower them with understanding, information and truths.
So as soon as my kids were old enough to speak, I began the empowering process every time they took a bath. Robbie and I are big proponents of children learning the proper names for their body parts. So when it was bath time I would quiz them about their bodies and they would tell me the appropriate anatomical name for each section, especially their private parts. Using proper terminology helps instill confidence in how we talk about these issues and makes the conversation more natural. Since Emilie was the oldest she knew the drill the best and her confidence and comfort with these bath time drill sessions trickled down to Madeline and Samantha as well.
I would start off by asking them to tell me the names of all their private parts and they would respond appropriately. I would then ask, “Is anyone allowed to touch you in these areas?” They would each answer, “No! Well, sometimes doctors and sometimes mommies and daddies can.”
“When is a doctor allowed to?”
“If they need to check and make sure your body is healthy. But mom or dad need to be in the room.”
“When are mom or dad allowed to?”
“To help you clean in the tub or bathroom when you are little and if they need to put medicine on you.”
“If someone tries to touch your private parts, what do you tell them?”
“What if it is someone you know and love? Can they touch you there?”
“If someone does touch your privates, what are you supposed to do?”
“Tell a mom, dad or teacher.”
“What if the person who touches you says that you will be in trouble if you tell?”
“They are lying.”
“That’s right, they are lying! You will never be in trouble and you can always tell us anything that happens to you!”
Protecting my children has always been my number one priority since I first became pregnant with Emilie. After Emilie died, I struggled with feelings that I failed to protect her. That is the most important job as a mother and I felt like I failed her.
It has taken a lot of time for me to work through those emotions and to take that failure and use it for good. Together with Michele Gay, another Sandy Hook mom, we co-founded Safe and Sound Schools, a non-profit that empowers others to make their schools safer. I am proud of the work and impact Safe and Sound has had on hundreds of communities and thousands of children across the country. Working in the non-profit world has been a completely new experience for me. My eyes have been opened to so many amazing people that do astounding things to make our world a better place. A few weeks ago I meet a man who is doing exactly that.
Earlier this year I was invited to join the Time Out for Women speaking tour. Although I had not had the opportunity to attend a Time Out for Women event before, I knew they were filled with uplifting speakers that provided women a moment to relax and be inspired. Most recently I was in Idaho Falls, speaking to an amazing group of powerful women. One of the presenters was Tim Ballard, someone I had never met but was told over and over again that I HAD to hear him speak. Curious, I read his bio:
Timothy Ballard is the founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), which rescues children from trafficking. He spent over a decade working as a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security, where he was deployed as an undercover operative for the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team.
My heart sank as the reality of what I was reading and about to listen to hit me. However, after hearing his AMAZING presentation, my heart still aches for these children, but also praises God for people like Tim. His work is so amazing and so important I felt inspired to share it with all of you. Please take a look at the trailer to the movie documenting his work.
We cannot protect our children from everything, but we can do everything in our power to protect them…