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Who's Most Likely To Sexually Abuse A Child? The Answer Shocked Me — But It Is Important To Know.

You can tell kids not to take candy from strangers, but don't *only* tell them that. Making it all about "stranger danger" is turning out to be far less helpful than you'd think.Trigger warning: Some graphic discussion of sexual abuse.

From a young age, we learn to be careful with strangers. When we're older, we protect our kids from strangers.

By strangers, we mean adult strangers. And when we protect children, we protect them mainly from the threat of sexual abuse.

But what if all the things we knew about keeping our children safe weren't enough?


There are ways we can teach children best practices on avoiding adult sexual predators — but that's not enough. Actually, that kind of misses the real danger.

Dr. Nina Burrowes has a few things to tell us on child sexual abuse that might be difficult to accept.

For example:

Children are more likely to be sexually abused by other children than by adult strangers.

And:

Children are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know than by a stranger.

Shocking? Yes. True? Sadly, yes.

But we shouldn't let the truth stop us from creating a better world for children. In fact, the truth is a good place to start.

Listen to Dr. Burrowes share her wisdom on keeping kids safe from sexual abuse.

I do disagree with her brief message about porn at 4:14 — after all, not all porn is violent, and even violent porn isn't the only factor in children not learning about consent and boundaries. A lack of proper safe and consensual sex education also ties into that.

With all that said, Dr. Burrowes' overall message is important, and it's one I hope all parents and caretakers of children can learn from.

FACT CHECK TIME!

In an email to Upworthy, Dr. Burrowes cited a paper by Eileen Vizard in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, which sets out the rough prevalence rates of children who abuse on page 2. The number she used: 30%.

For the prevalence of stranger sexual abuse of children, Dr. Burrowes used a figure of 10% based on this childhood sexual abuse fact sheet, though she specified:

    "Personally I believe that is a conservative example as stranger attacks are more likely to be reported than attacks by people known to the victim."

Here's a quick review of what our fact-checkers found:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Website appears to support this trend of child sexual abuse by children outnumbering rates of child sexual abuse by strangers.
  • According to the NSOPW, 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child (60% are known but not family members, and 30% are family members). By comparison, 23% of reported cases of child sex abuse are by perpetrators who are under the age of 18.
  • Still, that's comparing apples to oranges. The first number is an estimate. The second number is a percentage of reported cases. When you think about it, most of the child sexual abuses perpetrated by other children aren't officially reported, which supports what Dr. Burrowes says.
  • Other sources that generally support Dr. Burrowes' claim would be the Center for Sex Offender Management and Advocates for Youth.
Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.