Online Grooming & Offline Abuse
I recently attended a talk at my boy’s school. The subject was protecting your children from online abuse and online grooming. It’s a subject I thought I knew a lot about, but boy I didn’t. Our primary school has 400 children and 30 parents turned up that night to hear the talk. This message NEEDS to get out to more people.
Marilyn Hawes from the charity Freedom from Abuse was the speaker. She started off by introducing herself as Marilyn, ex deputy head of a school where her three boys attended. And the head master, one of her best friends, abused her three boys. Raped and violated her boys. I can feel the tears prickling now reminding me of how I felt that evening.
I looked around me, no-one else was crying, I bit my lip and forced back the tears. It was shocking and emotional. But this incredible woman meant business and was there to share the truth of abuse. Abuse that occurs everywhere, from schools to football clubs, to McDonald’s to home tutoring. Abuse that it way more prevalent in every life than offline and we should be more worried about the people our kids meet in everyday life.
The key message that came from the talk was to always go with your gut. If there is the slightest feeling about someone who spends time with your children not being 100% safe, then act on it. Check them out. Or ensure you are there when your child spends time with them.
This means so much to me with three boys who do a lot of football. My eldest plays for Cambridge Academy and my middle son plays for the shadow Academy team plus Letchworth. They spend a lot of time at football, with their coaches and away on tour in foreign countries without parents. I must be comfortable with whom I leave my children with and that gut instinct must be comfort, trust and happiness.
I have felt that gut instinct many times before with the boys and in situations with myself. The reaction should always be self-preservation and get yourself out of the situation ASAP if that gut feeling is scaring you.
Vulnerability and Grooming
There are times when we feel vulnerable, unfortunately this is when the groomer can hit. This can mean your children or even yourself. Think to a time when you have felt vulnerable. When I was 16 my mum died, and I was destroyed. I was at the most vulnerable times of my life. And totally was taken advantage of by many men/older boys. A sad story to recount and relive but my teenage years were awful. I was taken advantage of and was pulled into too many situations where there was no escape than to give in and put out. These boys knew what I had been through and didn’t care they just wanted sex.
So much can cause vulnerability, divorce, friendship issues, illness, bullying. Be aware of what your children are going through and understand if they are feeling vulnerable. And talk. Talk to them about how they are feeling, are there issues at school with friends, is someone picking on them, is someone saying things they shouldn’t be saying or doing thing they shouldn’t be doing.
The swimwear chat
We have spoken to our boys and had the swimwear chat. No one is to go near the boy’s pants/shorts/swimwear area. No one at school, football, friends or grownups. Marilyn likes to use the swimwear rule so it easily applies to girls as well as boys. This is a conversation we all need to have without children, so they know what is acceptable and what is not.
I watched a documentary recently on BBC about child abuse in America and a woman was being interviewed who had been abused as a child. She was describing the treatment of being raped, defecated on, hit. She as a child had no idea this was wrong and though this was the treatment of someone whom loved her. Ensure your children know what is right and what is wrong.
We spent some time talk about teenage grooming. And the ideal place to target the vulnerable younger teenagers is in MacDonald’s. Particularly an issue in Stevenage, near to where I live. A town ideally located near the A1 and on the train line with easy access to the north. Teenage boys in smart uniforms are targeted to take part in the county lines. They are paid £20/£30 to take drugs on the train to the north of England.
We also talked about online grooming and the age limits for social media and games. Fortnite is an issue in our school and all over the country. It is an aged 12 game, but children in my son’s classes aged 8 and 10 are playing it. It is an online game where online groomers can dial in and talk to your children.
Fortnite is not the only game, Roblox, Musically, all prime targets of paedophiles to approach our children. Monitor what your children and are playing and ensure it is age appropriate and unreachable for the paedophiles.
I was bowled over by the information Marilyn shared in this presentation and I came straight home and shared the information with my children and husband. We are doing everything we can to protect our children and god forbid anything happening as what happened to Marilyn’s beautiful boys.
For more info go to the Freedom from Abuse website. Or to arrange for Marilyn to come to your school and do the same talk to your parents. Marilyn works with many organisations, the police, schools, sports clubs and is passionate about educating everyone about the dangers of offline and online grooming. She is changing the world with each talk potentially helping a child to get help.
I quote from Marilyn’s bio..
” In 2002 the police knocked on her door at home to say “your three boys are being sexually abused by the head teacher at the school where you are deputy head”. Having pleaded guilty the judge gave the head teacher a suspended sentence. Marilyn took the case to the court of appeal and he was sent down. Because Marilyn did not want other families to go through the trauma she and her family had suffered she began “Enough Abuse”. In 2013 it became a charity and in September 2017 she was awarded “The Most Inspirational Woman of 2017” for the work she has done in educating schools, parents and children in “grooming” the preamble to child sexual abuse.. In May 2018 Marilyn set up “Freedom From Abuse”. Because of the increasing demand from families and the need to act quickly she decided to move from a charity to a company.”