Reducing sex abuse of children
Last week’s allegations of child sexual abuse against a local assistant principal and coach have brought shock, dismay and outrage.
The accused was in a position of trust, and our tri-county community is in search of answers. There may be a rush to question the motives of anyone who works with children. We ask how crimes like these could go unnoticed. And, for many parents, a pressing concern is “what do we say to our kids to help keep them safe?”
There are no simple answers. But we know from experience that public dialogue and education can help reduce the risk of child sexual abuse. The more we talk openly about this subject, the more insight we have so that we can be a vigilant community.
Prevention requires open discussions in our schools, our faith centers, our sports leagues, our communities and our homes. Knowledge is empowerment.
Parents should not feel helpless from the shock of this week’s news.
And no parent or victim of abuse should ever blame themselves; perpetrators are to blame.
Instead, we should take action by talking with each other and with our children.
We should use this as an opportunity to talk to our children about sexual abuse, regardless if the child had any interaction with the accused.
The most important thing we can do is give our children the opportunity to openly express their feelings. They need the comfort of a safe place to share anything, particularly something they may have been previously afraid to disclose.
There is no common or typical profile that we can use to identify a perpetrator.
In fact, the accused cited in this week’s news actually participated in one of our workshops just hours before his arrest.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Perpetrators will find ways to have access to children and seek to establish close and trusting relationships with parents and children alike.
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse are master manipulators who are highly skilled at winning trust and hiding their intentions.
We encourage the public to continue the dialogue that has been started and find hope in the fact that there are things we all can do to reduce the risks in our own homes and organizations.
Get involved in your local school, church, youth service organization, youth camp or sports league to ensure that prevention is being addressed and comprehensive policies and training are in place to identify potential problems. It is our hope that this news continues to emphasize the societal value in public dialogue and the importance of prevention education.
Darkness to Light is here as a resource to any parent or organization who wants to get involved in making our community a safer place for children.
If you believe that your child has been victimized in any way please get immediate help by calling the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center or the Dorchester Child Advocacy Center.
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