Instead of responding with outrage, let’s step back and see how you would react if you found out a trusted, powerful individual in your family was abusing a child in your family. Would you worry about what other people think? Would you worry how it may reflect on you and your good name and reputation?
From almost eight years of educating adults and teens about child sexual abuse and prevention, I know from experience that the story played out in the media of events at Penn State are NOT, let me repeat, NOT isolated incidents.
The hard truth is that when put in the situation of protecting a child’s wellbeing over protecting a reputation and name, history has shown that most families, no matter how large, choose the latter.
If you are reading this and thinking no way, not me, what can you do differently? If you have not been educated about the issue of child sexual abuse and prevention then you need to do so now. You may think you know all the facts but because of the primary challenge of fear and denial around the issue of CSA, if you have not attended a recent program or read up on recent studies on primary prevention, I am here to tell you that you do not know enough. Again, that is where the denial comes in. The fear again ties into the emotional reaction most of us will have to events like these, if they were to happen to us personally or in our close circle of influence.
Until you are willing to get educated, understand the facts, and learn how offenders groom the parents before they go after kids, you will react with a fear based, defensive reaction, hoping to protect your family’s reputation before doing what could be the right thing for the child that has been abused. I have seen this reaction many times and you can even see it happening in the media, such as the response to the Penn State incident.
The good news is that more and more people understand the need to get educated and prepared for such an event. Learn to make the detached decision of doing what is right for the child, not what is necessary for the reputation of the organization or the family. At home it is to prepare a safety plan and for any youth serving organizations it is to create and enforce policy and procedure, around CSA. When you understand the dynamics of how child sexual abuse takes place and creates a cycle of abuse and violence for generations in families and institutions, you realize you don’t have a choice anymore, that doing nothing is no longer a reasonable choice!
If you are looking for a primary prevention education program or family safety plan, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the following organizations on the internet. www.d2l.org, www. stopitnow.org, www.taalk.org
Svava Brooks is a co-founder of NGO in Iceland, dedicated to education and prevention of child sexual abuse. Svava also is an instructor for Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training and has created programs for adults and teens to learn about the prevention of CSA. Svava Brooks is a survivor herself and uses her own childhood experience of growing up in an abusive home suffering both physical and sexual abuse to educate others and hopes to encourage parents to educate their kids and organizations to plan for preventing offenders to use their organizations to access vulnerable children.