by Steve Wright
The Family Healing Center will be sharing with KRL’s readers about the things they do once a month.
Last month I spoke about the epidemic of child abuse and sexual assault in our society. I hope the information was valuable and made sense to you. I know statistics can be a little boring to look at and read, and I know there are those who do not really put much trust in statistical information. I also realize there are probably those who may not believe this conduct really occurs.
I was shocked a few years ago when I spoke to a group of Family Law Attorneys. I won’t mention the name of the group or the location of the event as that is not the important part of the information. I spoke generally on what our non-profit organization does and the type of resources we provide to law enforcement and victims of child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. At the end of my talk there were a few questions, mostly informational. The last person to stand up did not have a question but want to make a comment. This was a family law attorney and this person said, “I have been a family law attorney for 17 years and I know that all children lie.” The tone of the comment was very indignant and seemed to be pointing an enabling finger at what our organization does. It became important to me to understand the work these attorneys did and not react in a negative way. These attorneys deal almost exclusively with divorce and custody cases which for the most part can be very messy, so I have to be able to look at things from their perspective. So I am aware there are many perspectives out there about this problem in our society. I see the effects of child abuse and sexual assault on real victims and families every day. So my perspective is this is a very significant problem.
There are several studies out there that make an attempt to determine prevalence rates, and all of us would like to know the exact numbers. It is very difficult to know the exact numbers mainly because of the one variable that is unknown, and that is the number of unreported incidents. I will not go into all the numbers, but if you go to www.d2l.org, it will show all the details and a review of the six major studies that have been conducted. The end result is that 1 in 10 children in our society are abused before they turn 18 years of age. We, as parents and caretakers of those children, must be proper Stewards, and understand what we can do to prevent these acts from happening.
This article will focus on the Adult Responsibility of being a proper Steward of Children. In years past we focused on teaching the children how to keep themselves safe by teaching them about Stranger Danger. We taught them to watch out for the Boogie Man who might be lurking in the bushes or driving by in a car to lure them in with candy or a puppy. Are these lessons important? Yes, of course they are, they provide some valuable tools for our children to be aware of their surroundings, to pay attention to who is around them, to always be with friends, to never walk alone, and to scream, shout, and fight if they are every approached by a stranger. I taught my daughters the same lessons. We cannot stop there, though. There are dangerous predators out there we need to protect our children from, but when we look at who these predators are they are not only the creepy guy lurking in the bushes. In more than 80% of all child abuse, sexual assault, and neglect the perpetrator is a family member, close relative, neighbor, or person in a trusting relationship with the child and the family, not the creepy stranger.
As adults and parents we are responsible for many things regarding the safety of children: what they eat; making sure they do not get into cabinets and get into drano, bug killer, or other poisonous substances; putting them in car seats until they are at a safe age and weight to wear a seat belt; making sure they know how to cross the street, or hold our hands while walking through busy parking lots; making sure we defend them from bullying, just to name a few. But do we know how to teach our children to deal with potential sexual advances from an adult relative or other trusted person? I know this is a very difficult idea to even think about. Our normal thorough processes do not go down this road at all, but it happens much too often to ignore.
A person who is prone to this behavior can be a predator and will do whatever it takes to become trusted in order to be alone with a potential victims. There is a process known as grooming that will make the intended behavior seem normal or natural. It is critical that all parents know how to prevent this from happening and to protect your children from this abuse. There are also certain behaviors that are healthy and some that are unhealthy that may be signs something has happened or they have been exposed to certain activity. My articles are restricted as to length, so it is impossible to list them all here and provide the amount of information I would like to. Our organization is a partner with Darkness to Light in our Effort to End Child Abuse. You can find most of this information at www.d2l.org. We also have three facilitators that can come to your workplace, or if you have a group of parents that would like this training, we can accommodate that as well. For individuals you can access the www.d2l.org website and sign up to take the course online. DO IT NOW and help to stop Child Abuse.