In the last 10 years, the issue of child sexual abuse has been thrust into the spotlight. From the Catholic Church scandal to the Penn State debacle, it’s become obvious that no child is free from the risk of harm. Moreover, in over 90% of sexual abuse cases, the abuser is a known and trusted family member or friend. This number, to me, is staggering. How can a person violate a trust that is so implicit, so sacred? Most people know that children should be protected, but how do you protect your children from a danger that can literally reside under your own roof?
This issue affects me because I was fortunate enough to have a happy childhood. The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” has always been a favorite of mine because it provides a pretty accurate summary of my earlier life. My parents were loving and often present, but like most working professionals, it was impossible for them to be with their child at all times. Growing up, I spent countless hours and formed close connections with a myriad of teachers, family, and family friends. Since the tragic stories of the children sexually abused by Sandusky and Reville became national headlines, I’ve often thought how “lucky” it was that my childhood relationships with adults were positive and nurturing.
While taking D2L’s Stewards of Children training, I realized there was very little luck involved. The program discusses the seven steps to protect children, the second of which is minimizing opportunity. As I listened, memories began to emerge – my mother becoming very upset at me for accompanying a friend to his neighbor’s, an older man who lived alone and whom my mother didn’t know; my parents telling me not to be alone with certain adults and older youth; my parents limiting contact with some friends while encouraging contact with others. I realized then that I may have been raised by this village of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and family friends, but it was a thoroughly vetted village. By being aware, proactive, and trusting their instincts, my parents designed a safe and healthy environment for me.
It breaks my heart that there are children with stories bearing no resemblance to the one above – whose loved ones don’t have the knowledge, understanding, or strength to protect them from sexual abuse. However, adult/child interactions do not have to be feared or avoided, as long as adults are vetted, boundaries are set, and relationships are monitored. There is no such thing as luck when it comes to protecting children, but through proper design, I believe all children can grow up with fond memories of healthy childhood relationships.
2 responses to “No Such Thing as Luck”
I too have minimized opportunity for my children mainly because I was molested as a child. However, no matter what I did could stop the fact that my child came home from church sponsored MDO telling me about a new “special friend who is as big as daddy and has a penis” needless to say he was yanked from the program, we have cut ties with the church and proper authorities were notified. I do thank the fact that I could remember my experience and your training to see the warning signs early so we acted within a few days of the first “act out”
I remember sitting at the lunch table in the cafeteria during high school and one of my close female friends brought up the subject of molestation. After a few moments of silence we each admitted to one another that we were victims. I was utterly shocked and instantly thought what horrible luck we all had. Now a parent I realize that it had NOTHING to do with luck. My parents were careless and naive. I vowed that i would never give anyone the opportunity to molest my children.
The thing that bothers me the most is that a majority of people want to turn their backs on the issue of child sexual abuse. People also are in denial about who the sexual predators are. The fact is that men are responsible. If you want to truly protect your children, you have to acknowledge the source of the problem. It is fact that there are a very SMALL percentage of female sexual predators but that pales in comparison to the number of male sexual predators. It seems that any time that this is mentioned I am accused of being a feminist.
I do not care about protecting the male gender’s reputation more than my children. If that offends people, that is okay with me. I would be stupid to say i need to watch women being alone with my children as much as i need to watch men. That is just false. It ISN’T a matter of bad luck that a child is molested and it isn’t a matter of bad luck that 95% of the persons accused or convicted of child sexual abuse are men.