In Honor of NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH I am re-posting a blog I wrote in February. We can all help in the area of protecting our children from abuse.
Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse–Five Common Sense Tips
Since the beginning of time, child sexual abuse has been a dark hidden secret and often goes undetected. Many years ago, I was compelled to begin to work in the area of child abuse prevention. It seemed that child sexual abuse was everywhere. Everyone I talked to had their own story of abuses they had experienced or knew someone close to them who had suffered in some way. I was drawn to the cause due to my own childhood experience so I wondered if it was as rampant as I was thinking, or if I was just noticing it more because I was subconsciously searching out victims. Like getting a brand new white Volkswagen, suddenly you see them everywhere you go. Is it because you just weren’t paying attention before, are you just seeing them now that they are on your mind, or are there really white Volkswagens all over the place?
When I first became involved in prevention it was just becoming acceptable to talk openly about sexual abuse and children were being educated on what it meant to be violated and how to stop it. I was so encouraged that we were arming children and parents alike with the tools to combat this damaging act. I was excited to think that we could potentially keep children from being harmed and adult survivors could begin to process and heal from the long-term ramifications of abuse.
Now, nearly 15 years later and back in the field, I find that we still face many of the same issues. Awareness and education must continue if we are to prevent children from the life-altering horrors of sexual abuse. Even those in great authority claim ignorance when it comes to protecting children. Recently Cardinal Mahoney of the Catholic Church said, “Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem. In two years [1962—1964] spent in graduate school earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work, no textbook and no lecture ever referred to the sexual abuse of children. While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed.” http://cardinalrogermahonyblogsla.blogspot.com/
How many other leaders in our churches, schools and organizations are not prepared to respond to the abuse of children? It is our responsibility as adults to protect children no matter what our profession, religious beliefs, or stage in life. Parent or not, we must respond to and report child abuse when we know it is happening. Here are five common sense tips to remember if you suspect a child is being abused:
- Don’t assume authority figures are always safe. Obviously, we cannot go around suspecting everyone of being a child molester however, don’t ever rule someone out due to their position in a church, school, doctor’s office, or organization of any kind.
- Remember that children are most often abused by someone they know and someone who has gained their trust.
- Pay attention to changes in your child’s appearance, behavior and relationships with others. Children may become sad, act out or become fearful of being left with someone you trust.
- Pornography is a red flag…often an adult’s addiction to pornography leads to the sexual abuse of children.
- Child molesters are repeat offenders and must be reported to the authorities. If a friend, relative, or acquaintance approaches a child, they are likely approaching and molesting many children.
Children are the innocent victims of those who seek to harm them. Education and communication is key to learning how to protect children and talk to them about adults who may have inappropriate behavior.
For more information you can contact Carol Urton about her seminar: “Minimizing the Risk, Understanding and Reporting Child Abuse”
Carol also tells her own story of enduring over 9 years of childhood sexual abuse and child pornography in her book When Hope Hurts. It is a story of Healing, Hope, Salvation and Forgiveness.