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Holiday sleep overs; how safe is your child?

By Prim K. Tumuramye

OPINION | It is holiday time and children are taking off time to rest, for a moment 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 and other children had tales of trips to Kampala visiting their relatives, the episodes they had watched on television and so many other stories. The English teachers 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 same routines; 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 sure are right to yearn for a change. Something that has moved from generation to generation is sleep overs. Children leave home, definitely with the consent of their parents and go to spend time at a friend’s or relatives home. One would say from face value that 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, who 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 it used to hold when we were growing up? We grew knowing that blood is thicker than water. 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 sleep over at a friend’s place. Little did she know that this was a ploy between sister and brother to abuse her sexually. That fateful night, her friend told her that 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 in terms of assets 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 and her eyes pleadingly asking for her 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 own friend left a deep wound. She feared to make an alarm when her friend left her in the room in the name of going to fix something and come back shortly. She didn’t want to raise any suspicion in the home she had found stable. Dear parent, as you endorse that request of a sleep over from your child, please know that the world is not as clean as you think, know the agenda first and which home you are sending your child too. You could be signing a gate pass to the lion’s den.

The writer is the Public Relations Specialist, Compassion International – Uganda

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