No Parent Can Protect Their Child 100%
No matter how a child enters your life, if you have undisturbed human instinct, your primary focus likely becomes protecting that child. Even a person who has conceived or birthed a child and chooses to not parent them has in some way concluded that they are unable or unwilling to provide that child with what is needed. It is easy to assume that a parent “abandoning” a child is being selfish, but perhaps (consciously or subconsciously) this parent does not see themselves as capable or worthy of giving the child what they need. With such a parent in mind, let us also consider the parent representing the opposite end of the “take responsibility” spectrum, who makes it their life goal to care for and protect a child.
Regardless of where they fall on the spectrum, no matter how intelligent, ignorant, attentive, or distracted, a person caring for a child will never be able to completely protect that child 100% of the time.
This is a harsh truth that too many parents do not realize until something happens that forces them to accept it. No one can be with their child at all times so there is just no way to control their experience.
In my line of work, caregivers face betrayal from people they had every right to trust with their child’s safety. The notion that no person can be trusted with your child should not be commonplace and with respect to the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” a parent should be able to blindly trust their village members. Trusting your parent, sibling or life-long friend should not come with consequences…but it can. There are times when the person you have entrusted with your precious cargo does not fulfill their end of the nurture bargain. What then?
Many parents experience this kind of betrayal and blame themselves for not being superheroes with psychic abilities, but the reality is that they have been betrayed and have done nothing wrong. The betrayal doesn’t stop with humans though. Institutions and the media are the intangible parts of the village it takes to nurture a child.
“The Media” subliminally and overtly promotes child sexual abuse by glorifying youth and sexuality simultaneously while also conditioning the masses with movies, music, advertisement, etc. Additionally, the criminal justice system does not work well for sex crimes so the betrayal a parent experiences when a child has been harmed sexually extends to the systems that are supposed to help in the aftermath. It is difficult to prosecute sex crimes and more specifically it is extremely difficult to prosecute sex crimes against children.
The unfortunate truth is that the societal village available to most parents is not protective of children, so caregivers are challenged with the task of doing double the work to protect them. While this may seem like a harsh reality, it does not have to be.
This is a message to any adult with interest in protecting or helping protect children. We will never be able to control the people, places, institutions, ideologies, or messaging that encounter our children. What we can control is how real we are with ourselves about who to trust, what we teach our children from a young age (or at any point in their development), how we hold ourselves accountable for being stewards of children, and how we respond when children have been harmed. We must come together to become aware of imminent threats to our children’s safety as we establish safe environments for them. We must educate ourselves and work collectively towards the prevention of child abuse and exploitation and respond appropriately to these issues when they are unable to be prevented.
Until all children are safe, no children are safe.