The MSA Board of Directors made a decision to address some safety concerns that have been brought to our attention. These concerns have nothing to do with MSA being an all girls association; they deal with the safety of all of our children while at ballparks and/or playgrounds. This is not gender specific, because child sexual abuse and child abduction have no boundaries. We felt a responsibility to our children, and to you, as association members, to bring to light a problem that is real and exists nationally. There have been NO reported incidents of child abuse within our organization. The Board of Directors have been made aware of situations where children have been seen wandering alone throughout the Providence High School softball complex (the parking lot, adjacent soccer field, and behind the outfield fence area) and the Matthews Elementary field (the parking lot and playground).
The sad truth that we must all realize is there are individuals that wish to harm (or take advantage of) innocent children. These individuals are not sneaky old men in trench coats with bags of candy hiding behind a tree. They can be our neighbors or people that look and dress like everyone else. They can be crafty in their attempts to befriend children to lure them into a trap.
Please, while at any ballpark or playground, DO NOT take your eyes off of your children. As hard as it may seem, know where they are at all times, and instruct them not to stray away from your immediate location. As we all know, children don’t always adhere to our instructions, so this is where parents MUST keep a close watch over their child. Instruct your children not to walk away with anyone without first asking you, and instruct them where they can and cannot go. Below are some tips to help safeguard your child against child predators:
- Avoid scare tactics when discussing personal safety. Reassure your child that most people are kind and safe. Those who aren't are the exception.
- Straight talk works best when discussing the serious topic of personal safety with children. Avoid gimmicks like puppets, coloring books or cartoon figures.
- Teach your child basic sex education, i.e. the areas of the body covered by a bathing suit are private, and their bodies belong to them, and no one has the right to touch them in any way that is unwanted or hurts them.
- No one should be asking questions about their private body parts.
- Establish that sexual abuse is a crime. This gives children the confidence to assert themselves with those who try to abuse them.
- Teach them they can say “No” to any requests, from anyone, that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Develop strong communication skills with your child. Explain the importance of reporting abuse or attempted abuse to you or another trusted adult.
- Stress that there should be no secrets from you, especially those involving an adult.
- Above all, encourage children to recognize, trust and follow their instincts about people and situations - and listen to your own instincts.
- Teach them that they should not assist any adult or teenager with directions or finding lost animals.
- They should not get near, or get into a vehicle unless you have told them it is okay. If a vehicle follows them, or if someone in a vehicle asks them for directions or to come to a vehicle to look at something, they should run from the vehicle.
If any of the above incidents should occur at an MSA function, teach your child to tell someone. If you are not readily available, tell them to inform a coach or an official at the ballpark.
The intent of this information is not to frighten anyone, but to help protect our most valuable possessions in the world, our children. MSA will always address this topic with the utmost seriousness. We will continue to look for ways to promote and improve child safety awareness within our association. This will include background checks for all of our coaching volunteers beginning in 2007. Please feel free to use the feedback section of our website if you should have any questions/suggestions as it relates to this topic, or contact any MSA Board Member.