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Vacation sleepovers; is your child safe?

It is vacation time and children are taking time off to rest – for a moment to forget the routines of school life, but also trying to find memorable moments that will make part of their tales at their next level of school.

I remember, as a child, how I enviously looked on each time we reported back to school; other children had tales about trips to visit relatives in Kampala and the episodes they had watched on television, among so many other stories.

The teacher of English made it worse by giving us assignments to write about our best or worst holiday experiences. For some of us, it was an unchanging holiday story laced with routines of fetching water, digging and just waiting for the holiday to end.

I imagine the teacher was always bored reading our tales. No wonder we didn’t score highly in that particular assignment. To this age, children still enjoy visits and trying out new things after a strenuous school life punctuated with assignments, little sleep and lots of reading.

They are surely right to yearn for a change. Something that has moved from generation to generation is sleepovers. Children leave home with the consent of their parents to spend time at a friend’s or relative’s home. From face value, one would say this is ideally okay since a child is leaving home to another home. This is not as automatic as it may look.

Different homes have different values, traditions and inhabitants. For some homes, it is a nuclear setting, while for others, it is an extended homestead.

If, therefore, you are sending your girl child to an extended homestead because you think girls in this home have safely co-existed with their male relatives, whom do such relatives call your daughter?

Would they be bound by any blood relations not to, for example, make any sexual advances to your daughter? Does blood even still hold the thickness as we were told while growing up? Today, it is apparent that you are least safe even among your own blood relations.

I remember a story of my intimate friend in high school. Poor girl was invited for a sleepover at a friend’s residence.

Little did she know this was a ploy between sister and brother to abuse her sexually. That fateful night, her friend told her they could spend some time in her brother’s room listening to music from his walkie-talkie.

Those days, walkie-talkies had just come on the market and were the in-thing asset for any teenager. This innocent visiting girl felt safe with her female friend to spend the evening with the brother.

After all, a brother of your friend is your brother, too. How wrong she was! As the clock ticked off and the music went slower, the boy started touching this girl in a discomforting manner. She looked at her friend in confusion, with her eyes pleading for intervention.

“It is fine; my brother will not harm you,” she smilingly reassured her.    

That night, she had her first sexual encounter. The pain of betrayal by her friend left a deep wound. She feared to make an alarm when her friend left her in the room apparently to fix something to return shortly. She didn’t want to raise any suspicion in the home she had found stable.

Dear parent, as you endorse your child’s request of a sleepover, know that the world is not as clean as you think; understand the agenda first and the home you are sending your child to. Otherwise, you could be signing a gate pass to the lion’s den.

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