You’d rather not, you say? It’s too sensitive an issue, too hard to talk about.
How about when you talked with your own children about it. Was it difficult then?
You never did talk to the kids about it? Oh…
April is Child Sexual Abuse Protection Month. Newspapers often participate in such promotions by promoting a community-wide dialog. But, as alluded to above, as deeply as the community obviously cares about the safety of children, child sex abuse is not a conversation starter. That’s not to suggest that Sun Chronicle readers haven’t talked about child sex abuse. Twenty years ago next month when it came to light that James R. Porter, a defrocked priest, had sexually abused dozens of youngsters while assigned to North Attleboro in the early 1960s. Many other incidents, though less notorious, have made headlines in the interim. Indeed, we observe regretfully that child sex abuse has never been far from the headlines – just a little over a week ago our front page reported 32 Massachusetts men, including two area residents, had been arrested in a crackdown on an Internet child pornography ring.
The anger following these incidents is palpable. It usually results in pressure on child service and law and order agencies to do something about it. And when the anger passes, the average citizen is no better prepared to talk about child sex abuse than before – what questions, for instance, to ask a child who you might suspect is being abused, or how to talk to your own children about their dealings with adults.
The good news for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month of 2012 is that there are very positive signs that this culture is changing – in Sun Chronicle country and elsewhere.
Our editorial board sat down on April 18 with Ed Hurley, president of the Hockomock Area YMCA; Tony Calcia, the executive heading up the Hockomock YMCA’s Darkness to Light program, and Robin McDonald, president of the Attleboro YMCA, to talk about the Darkness to Light program that has been adopted by all Massachusetts YMCAs.
The major aim of D2L is to empower adults to protect children, and toward that has a goal of training 5 percent of the adult population in the Stewards of Children program. That’s 4,200 people in the Hockomock Y’s service area.
Maybe that sounds high, but since last August, 691 people have attended the 2 1/2-hour training session. The Pop Warner Football program has signed on as a partner. So has the Little North Attleboro League. Every staff member in the Mansfield school system is to receive the training. Commitments have been made by the other Hockomock school systems. Such employers as Invensys of Foxboro has signed on. Like Hockomock, the Attleboro Y has three Stewards for Children on staff and is working with New Hope, police departments and a wide array of community partners to provide training. Overtures to other institutions have been welcome; they are relieved to know “we are not alone.”
That is a recurring theme in the program and the hope from here is that it will resonate with everyday citizens who may otherwise feel they are lost and alone with their questions about what to say and what to do where child sexual abuse is suspected. Several training sessions are forthcoming and we urge readers to pencil one in on their calendars.
Young victims for too long have borne the onus of reporting child abuse if it was to be reported at all. Through D2L and the community awareness it promotes, a reliable safety net can be created for them.