In my time at D2L, it hasn’t been the statistics or the headlines that startle me most.
Instead, it’s the lack of national awareness of child sexual abuse as an issue that affects everyone and needs to be addressed. We believe children should have environments that protect and nurture, but we don’t see that this issue is affecting children in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes.
I am guilty of this, as well. I’ve supported many worthy organizations over the years – animal rescues, cancer organizations, children’s organizations, you name it. I’ve happily purchased enough shamrocks at checkout stations to fill my own wall. However, it wasn’t until I began working at D2L and took the Stewards of Children prevention training that I realized the prevalence of child sexual abuse.
In the headlines, you hear about abuse and that’s where it stops. The conversation rarely covers prevalence, and the odds of it continuing to prevention and response is minuscule. Maybe that’s why I regarded cases such as Sandusky as “one-offs” – horrible and shocking, but certainly not something that happened on a daily basis. I wish this were true, but the reality is that child sexual abuse is the biggest health issue children face today, with a wide variety of negative long-term consequences for both the children and their communities.
Most of us agree with and support the statement that children have a right not to be abused. Most of us are parents, most of us love our children, and even with troubling statistics on child sexual abuse, the vast majority of us are not predators. Despite this, we overwhelmingly take a reactive approach to child sexual abuse, and then typically limited to the community affected.
We need to talk about prevention.
When we see stories of animal abuse, we often hear about the follow-though – the amazing rescue that was able to save and rehabilitate, and follow-ups with the animal as it heals and is re-homed to a loving family. With child sexual abuse, stories of the Josh Duggars and the Dennis Hasterts are discussed on major news networks and shared by thousands within their networks. Unfortunately, we don’t see the national coverage continue to prevention and response.
Most of us can relate to stories of animal cruelty and response. We see photos of abused animals nationally and in our communities, and are elated by stories of rehabilitation. We see the need for response. On the other hand, child sexual abuse is for the most part a silent affliction and we don’t see obvious physical examples of the issue and its effects – even though you likely have a friend or family member who was a victim. We say time and time again, the one silver lining in this issue is that abuse can be prevented, stopped, and overcome.
That’s a message that needs to be shared!
Jessica Jordan Richardson, MA, is the Communication Manager for Darkness to Light.
Recently, Darkness to Light selected as a finalist for a $75,000 donation from the DSW Leave Your Mark program. The final selection is based on votes, and even though several of the organizations are significantly larger than us, we are still in the running.
Today, I ask you to use your vote to show the world that child sexual abuse prevention should be a priority. You can vote daily through June 16. This donation would bring so many possibilities for prevention.
Together, let’s change the conversation.