Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” Today we honor his life and legacy with a call to community service because our most pressing public health issues and national problems can only be addressed by bridging racial, economic, religious, and cultural divisions–and coming together from a place of humaneness and compassion. Likewise, we must step outside of our comfort zones and have the courage of both conviction and expression.
Child sexual abuse is a national problem and public health issue. It effects not just the well-being of the survivor, but also the health of the family, the community, and even the offender. We need to concurrently lessen the number of children who are abused and the number of offenders. Tackling a public health issue starts with education, but a public health matter of this magnitude (one in three girls and one in six boys) doesn’t end until every last person has dedicated him and herself to speaking up for children.
When I ask parents if they have the right to discuss with school administration and staff what child sexual abuse prevention policies are in place to keep kids safe, parents give a resounding “Yes.” And then I ask, “Are YOU asking?” and the answer is an equally resounding, “No.” When I ask parents if it makes sense to invite other parents or caregivers onto the family’s prevention team, the parent says, “Of course,” but when I ask how it’s going, the parent often reports that it’s too awkward or socially scary.
I appreciate your honesty, but we have to do better.
As you reflect today on community and service, please invite a member of your community onto your prevention team. And remember: Your child is counting on you to speak up.