If you are looking for a guide on how to prepare your children for the dangers of sexual predators, The Well Armored Child: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Sexual Abuse, by Joelle Casteix, might be the book for you. Casteix outlines how to take your child from being an “easy target” for sexual predators to a “hard target,” one who is not likely to experience sexual abuse. She summarizes: “The purpose of this book is to give you the tools to identify and stop the 90 percent of predators who are never arrested or convicted.”
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines sexual abuse as:
The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.
All of these avenues of abuse can leave a lasting and devastating impact on children.
The book’s author, Joelle Casteix, writes from a perspective of a child sexual abuse victim. She includes a thorough explanation of why she is qualified to write this book and the abuse that she endured throughout her high school years. Her personal experience bleeds through to each page. She now works to advocate for and mentor other child sexual abuse victims.
Five chapters are devoted to understanding a predator. Readers can learn about the grooming techniques used by child sexual abusers. Often predators devote many months of time and attention to convincing children that they wanted and asked for the abuse the predator has in store. The loyalty of child sexual victims to their abusers can be confusing to onlookers, but understanding the work that a predator puts into this grooming technique helps readers to know what to look for before the abuse leaves permanent scars.
Casteix gives an overview of how to protect children from sexual abuse at each stage of life. She designates a chapter each to protecting your children through infancy, toddlerhood, elementary school days, preteen and teenage years, and even as you send your children into the world at age eighteen. I appreciated her breakdown of age-appropriate guidelines and how to apply them starting in the first few weeks of your child’s life. Casteix stresses the importance of parental involvement in a child’s life beginning long before he hits puberty.
Readers will notice a few quirks of the author as they read the nearly 300 pages of text. One such quirk is the use of the word “hinky.” After numerous uses, I had to consult the urban dictionary to learn that “hinky” is when “something as yet undefinable is wrong, out of place; not quite right.” Personally, I found the use of such a slang word in a serious book out of place.
I found the author’s view of personhood to seriously clash with my own. While talking about helping to protect infants from child abuse, she refers to them as less than human. “By eight or nine months old, your baby is well on her way to becoming a real person.” I believe my child was a real person long before eight or nine months. Then in the chapter on preparing your elementary school student for that stage of life, she says “Your child has become a ‘person.’” Apparently anyone younger than kindergarten is just a half-person? Such language distracts from the larger points Casteix is trying to make in the book.
I also chuckled at her description of a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). In a prelude to a six-page checklist on choosing a daycare provider or a babysitter, she talks about the stress of making this decision and concludes, “Unfortunately, we are not all multimillionaires who can stay at home and spend quality time with our children all day long.” As a SAHM myself, I have yet to meet a “coworker” who is a multimillionaire. I have met plenty of SAHMs who work tirelessly to make ends meet on a minimum wage or a (barely better) single income, but no multimillionaires.
I hope that the steps in this book will prevent children from being abused, yet there is not yet conclusive research on this subject. Chapter 1 of The Well-Armored Child begins by citing the statistic that sexual abuse impacts “approximately one in six children in the United States before age eighteen.” She then—just seventeen pages later—tells readers “… our children are safer from sex abuse now” as compared to the past. Some of the reasons Casteix lists for this include the national conversations and open dialogues that are happening around our country. Thirty years ago children were considered liars or story-tellers if they tried to seek help for sexual abuse. Today law enforcement officials, physicians, educators and more are trained to recognize signs of sexual abuse and—in many states—are mandatory reporters.
While there are no solid studies to say that following Casteix’s steps will decisively prevent child sexual abuse in your family, the keys given are powerful tools for parents to prevent and recognize abuse. Parents who suspect a problem will also learn to ask the pertinent questions to help children speak up and receive the help needed to end any abuse that might be occurring . Being an involved parent is your best defense to protecting your child from sexual abuse. Pick up a copy of The Well Armored Child and begin working to protect your child today.