In the child sexual abuse prevention community, the story that rocked 2012 came out of Penn State. On this university campus, home to the legendary Nittany Lions, we witnessed the profound failure of an institution and its highest and most visible leaders to protect children. And while this story broke in the press and played out in the courtroom, another 2012 story unfolded, but this one didn’t make the news: The sexual abuse, one by one, of more than one million children, usually by known and trusted adults, in all corners of the U.S.—and beyond. How could this story have been ignored and who will speak up for children?
We will. You and me—and everyone we can educate and influence.
I know it’s uncomfortable for people to talk about child sexual abuse and body safety because parents tell me that all the time. Child sexual abusers, however, count on this discomfort and silence.
Child sexual abusers seek children who have not been taught body-safety rules. They also look for adults who are unlikely to speak up about behaviors of concern. In the words of an abuser, “I would test the boy to see if he had the ability to keep a secret. . . . If he didn’t [keep the secret] I would them immediately end all attempts at victimizing him. On the other hand, if after a week it was clear that this secret had been kept, I escalated the process.”
If that’s not testimony to the power of prevention, what is?
As we head into the New Year, full of hope and opportunity, will you join me in preventing child sexual abuse by speaking up louder than ever before on behalf of children?
Here are three specific things you can do in 2013 to keep children safe from sexual abuse in your community.
- Invite five more people (e.g., teacher, pediatrician, coach, aunt, etc.) onto your prevention team by sharing your child’s body-safety rules.
- The next time you see a behavior of concern or have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, speak up. Talk to the principal or director, a therapist, your local child advocacy center, or call me for a consult. In doing so, you may be saving a child from the pain of sexual abuse and that possibility alone must propel us all to action.
- Ask five people in your life to attend a Parenting Safe Children workshop or to read Off Limits, so they, too, can learn the body-safety rules and screening techniques required to make families and communities off limits to child sexual abuse.
I have committed my life to keeping kids safe from sexual abuse. There is nothing I care more deeply about then protecting children, and in 2013 I will continue doing everything I can through Parenting Safe Children and Off Limits to be a voice for children. Please join me in speaking up in 2013 like never before! Let’s make some noise.
Happy New Year!
With gratitude, Feather