In a blog she wrote for Scary Mommy, Elizabeth Broadbent describes how she was molested at a sleepover when she was seven years old. “It happened the first time at her [a friend’s] house,” she wrote. “I was seven years old, the same age that my oldest son is now. She told me her cousin taught her how to do something that made you feel good. Then she proceeded to molest me.”
Worried that something similar might happen to her kids, she’s banned them from attending sleepovers. “I'd rather be upfront about my fears than have something happen to my kids,” she continued. “I don't want my kids molested. I don't want my kids exposed to porn. So I'm sorry, but they won't be staying overnight at your place – because you just never know. My parents didn't.”
Bravehearts is an organisation that aims to educate, empower and protect kids from sexual harm. It reports that one in five Australian children will be sexually harmed before their 18th birthday, and it is estimated that in 70-90% of cases the offender is someone the child knows. With this in mind, we spoke to some local mothers about whether they would let their children attend a sleepover at a friend’s house.
“This is where I’m glad I have boys, not girls,” said Mel from Mooloolaba. “The issue never really comes up with boys – or hasn’t done so far. I wouldn’t be comfortable having my kids stay at one of their friend’s houses for the entire night. You just never know.”
Judy from Buderim agreed: “Mine aren’t having sleepovers. I’ll happily drop them over for a few hours and then pick them up when the others go to bed.”
Another mum said she does let her children go to sleepovers but was reluctant at first. “My daughter was seven when she was invited to her first sleepover,” said Karen from Brightwater. “I didn’t want to let her go as I thought she was too young but my husband didn’t have a problem with it. When I found out another friend would also be there (whose mum I know very well), I relaxed a fair bit and let her go.
“She was so excited and I was happy she got to experience it,” she added. “And, to be honest, there are possible dangers anywhere. I don’t want my fear to hold her back.”
What do you think? Would you let your child go to a sleepover?