Talking to children about grooming in light of ‘Show Dogs’ Controversy
How to protect children from sexual predators
The new kids movie ‘Show Dogs’ is stirring up controversy about a disturbing message it is sending to children. Here is what parents should know.”
Parents, take the time to teach your children about body autonomy and that it’s OK to say no to unwanted physical touch, such as hugs and kisses.
Jamye Coffman, M.D., a child abuse pediatrician, had never heard of Show Dogs until yesterday as social media erupted after the movie’s release. Mom blogs and advocacy groups for children asked the producers of the film to recut it over concerns about its genital inspection subplot. A dog in the movie is inspected at a dog show and gradually becomes comfortable with strangers touching his genitals.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation stated the movie, “sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse … It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘Zen place.’”
Yesterday, Global Road Entertainment agreed to recut the movie and delete the scenes that some felt was inappropriate.
Dr. Coffman, the medical director of the Child Advocacy Resources and Evaluation (CARE) team at Cook Children’s, breathed a sigh of relief at this news.
“I haven’t seen the movie but from the description I see the issue parents are having,” Dr. Coffman said. “This movie humanizes the dogs (they talk and have human emotions) and then tells the dog to go to his ‘Zen place,’ while touching privates when he is clearly uncomfortable with it. Dissociation is a coping strategy used by abused children and this movie is promoting that for the dog to cope with the touches. If a child saw this movie a conversation about autonomy and the right to say no is a must.”
Dr. Coffman said parents need to take certain steps to teach their children how to protect themselves:
Educate your children. Most importantly, talk to your children about the dangers of predators. “The main thing is to educate your child and let them know what is not appropriate. What’s not OK,” Dr. Coffman said. “For children or young adults, explain to them that it’s never OK to be touched inappropriately by anyone. I don’t care who it is. Mom. Dad. Grandma. Grandpa. A family friend. A pastor. A policeman. A coach. It doesn’t matter who the authority figure is. If you are being abused, tell a trusted adult. If they don’t believe you or do something about it, keep telling an adult until someone does something.”
Start at a young age, making children aware of what is and what isn’t inappropriate touching. Dr. Coffman said at around 2 or 3 years old parents can use certain teaching moments to inform children on inappropriate touching. Refer to private parts by their correct names. Teach your child no one is allowed to touch his or her body in these areas, nor show them theirs or pictures of them. If your child uses pet names that you don’t use, this would be a time to question them on where they learned these terms because your family uses the correct anatomical terms.
Let your children know it’s OK to talk to you. Generally speaking, Dr. Coffman said pedophiles don’t usually start out being extremely aggressive. They usually start with more generic touching and gaining the child’s trust. Dr. Coffman said that’s why it is extremely important to let your children know that they need to be able to come to you, as a parent, and let you know of anything that’s inappropriate. They also need to be assured that they will not get in trouble if they tell you they are uncomfortable about anything.
Communicate and report abuse. Let your child know to tell someone. Just letting someone know and reporting the crime can prevent a whole lot of tragedy. If a child tells you that he or she has been molested or abused, take them to a child abuse pediatrician or a children’s advocacy center. These professionals are trained in asking children questions and recording the story.