Tracy Lamperti is a therapist from Brewster, Massachusetts who has been working with families for twenty-five years. She has worked as a rape crisis counselor as well and alongside child protective services. On today’s show she discusses how to protect your family from sexual abuse.
Early on, Tracy provided child therapy services. During this time she found that children are a product of their environments, not a diagnosis. It was unrealistic to place great expectations on children in therapy when changes do not occur in the family system. Now, Tracy works more with couples to help create a healthier, more supportive environment for their families.
Disarming the Pedophile
Pedophiles don’t want to get caught. If you’re doing the wrong thing, and don’t want to be caught, you have to learn the skills to accomplish this. That’s where grooming comes in.
Levels of Grooming
Grooming is all about how the pedophile develops a relationship with the potential victim and with the victim’s family. It is very subtle. Many times they start with something very benign—things that won’t get the person in trouble.
Secrets & Bonding
An example of grooming, would be keeping secrets. They may say, “When I was a kid your age I used to dress like a superhero, I would be in the bathroom and put on a towel like a cape. Don’t tell anybody because I would be embarrassed if anybody knew that.”
The child then identifies with the pedophile through empathy. In effect, the pedophile is bonding with the child. It communicates that there is something special about this child. If the child tells another adult this story, the child does not pass the test, and will likely not be further pursued by the pedophile.
The pedophile is searching for a child that will keep secrets. If a child keeps the secret, the pedophile will increase the level of secret-keeping.
During this time, the child has developed a bond with the pedophile and does not want the pedophile to get in trouble. The child thinks ‘I’m the keeper of him getting in trouble or not.’
Recently a teacher was charged with raping two children at a school in her area. Many ask, ‘How can this happen?” Tracy provides an example of the beginning of how a pedophile may approach touching a child.
She states that a teacher could place a pencil on the other side of a seated child and reach across the child for the pencil, brushing against the child’s chest. If the child doesn’t say anything, then the teacher may try another physical strategy that is more invasive. The pedophile will then continue to up the ante until they get caught or until they get their devious needs met.
A teacher may choose a child that needs extra help. They may act like the parent’s ally. Another example she gives is of a priest who molested children. He had gone into these children’s homes and prayed with these families—he had their trust.
Protecting Your Child From the Pedophile
1) Parents need to ask the right questions. There will be times your child will be in the care of others (school, camp, babysitting, etc.) and you need to be prepared to ask questions. (FIND THE LINK FOR THESE QUESTIONS BELOW!)
2) Family dynamics. Sin happens in the dark. Abuse happens in dark places where there is not openness. Children are less likely to be open with parents when there is not open communication in the family. What’s worse, because of the advent of internet technology, many parents are even more disconnected from their children. If kids don’t feel comfortable, they need to be able to have these open conversations. It starts with having conversations that aren’t as heavy.
Parents need to be very mindful of lies of omission. If a parent tells a child to wait to tell another parent something, it forces the child into a situation where they don’t know when and how to talk about things. They wonder ‘when do I tell and when do I not tell?’
It is important that parents make a safe environment for children to discuss what has happened that day and their feelings about it. Oftentimes, children do not feel safe to talk to their parents because they get yelled at.
What has been your “a-ha moment” during your work? It is way easier to prevent trauma than it is to treat it.
What is your most effective relationship skill? Taking a breath, turning things off and gathering around and interacting with each other. Communication without distractions. Children need to experience family time without tension and pressure.
What are you most excited about today? She is privileged to work with the dark places with people. Help people work towards wholeness.
What has been your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God? Time and distractions. She has to keep reminding herself distractions will not help her relationship with God. These aren’t God’s ways or what He intended for us.
What is the best advice you’ve received? Slow down. Remember that prayer is available to us every second of every day.
Who do you admire the most, other than a biblical figure? Her husband. He is good about being “present”. A very good listener. He sees things she can’t see.
What is your favorite book, besides the Bible, and why? Aesop’s Fables. She really appreciates children’s stories with deeper meanings.
Take your time with things, slow down, look people in the eye. Be available to people. Try to bust distractions.
She gives an example of how her son was into Star Wars. Her husband would notice when something was bothering him. Her husband would say to him, “I feel a disruption in the force…” It became a strategy for them to have conversations about feelings.