Jerry Sandusky’s recent verdict isn’t the whole story. Skip Reville’s sentencing isn’t the whole story. Horace Mann (“Prep School Predators,” June 6 New York Times) isn’t the whole story. Adam Sandler’s new movie, “That’s My Boy,” isn’t the whole story. The Catholic Church isn’t the whole story.
These high-profile national stories may appear to create a perfect storm of child sexual abuse. But they are merely a “Foreword” in a much deeper, troubling saga of one of the most heinous crimes in our society.
The whole story is that if we don’t each demand that something change, 20 years from now there will be tens of millions of adults added to the ranks of sexual abuse survivors. Tomorrow’s adults are, of course, today’s children. My children. Your children. Our future. This is a nasty business, so how could we not protect their innocence by intervening?
Child sexual abuse is, in fact, an adult problem. What changes do we need to demand? It starts with demanding a change of ourselves as parents, caretakers and responsible adults. Get the facts. Understand the risks. Do not fall into the trap of thinking it can’t happen to your child, at your school, at your church. It’s a difficult subject — get used to it and don’t pretend that the need to talk openly about it does not exist. That’s how abusers are successful; through the shameful silence they are able to create and foster, not only from their victims, but from victims’ families and the institutions where they are employed. That shameful silence is put simply, a shame.
It will keep you from putting the measures in place that you think aren’t necessary because, for example, you don’t let your child spend time with people you don’t know. In fact, 90 percent of children are abused by someone that you do know. Someone that you trust.
We spend much of our lives dealing with the things that we can’t control. While we can’t control a perpetrator’s actions, we can arm ourselves with as much information as possible in a continuous effort to build the best barrier we can between our children and those who want to harm them. Prevention training, such as Darkness to Light’s “Stewards of Children” program, is the answer.
It’s a small investment of time that could make a lifetime of difference to children, those around them and their very own children, not to mention others who can be saved through these very same measures.
We need to demand that youth-serving organizations do their part to keep our children safe. Perpetrators are drawn to environments where they can have access to children — places where they can establish relationships with children and parents, where they can build trust. Unfortunately, these places are the same places we think that our children are the safest — our schools, our faith centers, our music programs, our sports programs. We need organizations to help protect our children, and protect themselves.
They can do this by conducting thorough background checks for all adults who interact with children; by not allowing one-on-one interaction between an adult and a child unless it is out in the open where it can be observed or interrupted; and lastly by training staff and volunteers who work with children. This training needs to include best practices in preventing abuse, seeing warning signs from a child, and reacting quickly and responsibly to any of the signs.
We need to demand that our state and federal lawmakers put policy and funding into place that will help us stop the abuse before it happens. We spend billions of dollars on efforts to deal with the repercussions of abuse but very few dollars are invested in prevention. Let’s start by insisting that any organization that receives state or federal funds must use prevention best practices — background checks, policy and training staff.
Who is at the center of the whole story on child sexual abuse? You are; every adult who is concerned about children. Do your part to rewrite the story for the future.
We cannot wait until there is another Jerry Sandusky story, another Horace Mann story. Are you going to wait until it happens at your alma mater, at your church, or to your child? This is not an issue we can afford to have hit close to home before we get involved and demand change. The innocence of childhood is not something that can be taken for granted or taken back.
The time for prevention is now. Child sexual abuse affects everyone.
That’s the whole story.
Jolie Logan is CEO of Darkness to Light (D2L), a Charleston-based national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse.
5 responses to “The whole story of child sexual abuse affects everyone”
Thank you for your continued service to this cause. I just wanted to share some points that this organization may want to consider. A most recent survey states that children are becoming addicted to porn as early as the age of 10. (abcnewsnow.com)
This poses another angle of prevention that we often ignore. Parental supervision and internet usage. The internet is now the “new cartoon”…the baby sitter. Even as Christians, parents have completely dropped the ball on the mandate to protect, provide, and guard our children’s hearts.
My son who is currently serving a 43 sentence for a sex crime had this “hidden addiction” which started when he was in the 5th grade. At the age of 20 he confessed his sin (5 years later) to the victim’s parents. His walk with the Lord along with understanding the nature of sin in the Christian’s life (a constant struggle) has freed him and the victim. He has received forgiveness from the victim’s family and my all will receive the counseling that is needed so restoration may occur.
Child sexual abuse has been a “sin” issue since Ancient Rome. I also was sexually abused as a child by a cousin, but it was just a “norm” in our family. I was raped by the man I was married to so this issue runs deeper than raising awareness…THIS IS A SPIRIT, a demonic and harmful spirit that Christian continue to ignore. You can’t combat a spirit with human ingenuity..we need to start there.
I was blessed complete “Darkness to Light” training as part of my mandated volunteer training. I think this course should be given to first time sex offenders. I feel it would provoke much needed self-examination and conviction for them to seek help early. There also needs to be stronger laws and monitoring for companies that invest in the companies that produce pornography. FOLLOW THE MONEY!! Lastly,,this problem can only be solved through prayer and fasting. Pastors need to stop making their pulpits a counseling session and deal with our sin regularly. For we all must give an account to God for everything, whether good or bad. Be Blessed.
Thank you Erika SO much for this article! Thank God someone else thinks like me! I was beginning to think amongst parents down here in Australia I was one of very few. I have written and published a children’s book on sexual abuse prevention education entitled Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. In marketing this book to parents it is an enormous challenge for us. I come across the ‘head in the sand syndrome’ eg ‘wonderful book but I don’t need to read it to my child because I keep a close eye on them and it will never happen to them’ As you and I know and statistics tell us – Wrong! Keep up the great work and I will continue to work tirelessly here in Australia trying to turn the conversation around and make parents and educators take responsibility. People are horrified when they hear of sexual abuse cases of children yet they continue to let them go out into life unprotected. I truly cannot understand this thinking. Please email me if I can help your cause in any way.
good article and all true..as a Survivor myself with lots of time and energy involved in Recovery and Lawsuits against my abuser and the school board that employed and shielded him, id like to add that we need to give voices to children TODAY, so that they can feel its ok to tell about CURRENT ABUSE that is ongoing in the lives of kids NOW,… and put a STOP to such abuse immediately and get the kids into Recovery programs sooner rather than later.. early intervention is proven to help the victim immensly… today we have the psyche testing available to reveal the Markers of Child Abusers and Molesters in general, so why not use them Now, in schools, daycares, sports, churchs, everywhere kids are… we see the effects on kids all the time, the stats are very clear as to what to expect in a Victim post abuse,, one needs the power to save kids from abusive homes of generational abuse Now, and help the child today….. its a multifaceted approach and dilema as uve said that must become the talk of the day in order for real lasting change to occur… today is the tip of the iceberg, and this has bveen going on for ever… only now is the world bcoming aware and valuing children as the miracles that they are… that we all are really… once children, now grown…
Thank you for your post, for your work, for your organization. How I wish I had stumbled across something as remotely helpful and encouraging as Darkness to Light when I was enduring chronic gang rapes and molestation almost 20 years ago. I’m working through it now at my blog: http://growingupvivid.com. I want to be part of the solution now. I’m done with silence! I’m done hiding in shame and keeping THEIR secrets.