Today I attended a presentation called “Stewards of Children.” This presentation provided insights into the realistic tragedy of child sexual abuse and provided steps that people can take to be aware of problematic situations. I first heard about the training and thought it sounded like a great cause to be aware of… but I had absolutely no plans of attending. I don’t have children and don’t work with children with any sort of regularity. After thinking talking through things with my friend Kate, I ended up deciding on going and trying to encourage others to attend with me. Here’s why:
1) With everything that has happened in the town of State College in the past year it is so crucial for regular people to make a concerted effort to take practical steps towards addressing this tragedy.
2) For followers of Jesus: I believe the Church should be taking a proactive stance towards protecting little children (something Jesus addressed specifically). Recently many horrific actions have taken place when people saying they are followers of Jesus have turned a blind eye to these tragedies.
3) For men: Men are far more likely to be the perpetrators of sexual violence. At the same time, men are awkwardly absent from the conversation on stopping sexual abuse (a friend said that she attended this same presentation once and in a group of 35 people, there was 1 man!). Realistically shouldn’t we be leading the charge to stop this? Isn’t protecting those who are defenseless one of the “manliest” things we could do? We definitely need to “man up” and be involved in these conversations.
The fact remains that this is an uncomfortable topic.
It’s uncomfortable to hear that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused in some way before their 18th birthday.
It’s uncomfortable to find out that these crimes aren’t being perpetrated by shady weirdos hanging out in the shadows. Ninety percent of victims knew their attackers. They are coaches, family members, and leaders within the community. They are “trustworthy,” “charismatic,” and manipulative.
I understand a man in our session who said that hearing this made him think “he wanted nothing to do with this.” Nothing to do with looking out for kids. In this current culture, how can you be genuinely invested in looking out for children without having people think you’re some kind of weirdo?
Well, I think we need to start the conversation. This is a real issue that is causing life-long damage on kids. It would be easier to address as adults if it wasn’t such an awkward conversation. So let’s talk about it!
Also, let’s be smart and be accountable! Don’t be afraid to sign up as a Big Brother or Big Sister to kids who need a strong adult role model. Just be smart, tell parents/guardians where you’re going with the kids, and spend time in public places. Help out in the nursery, just be sure there’s two adults. These may seem like common sense, but they go a long way.
Finally, let’s act! If you think someone might be harming a child, don’t assume it’s harmless (something that caused a world of tragedy within our community at Penn State). Listen to a kid. Believe them! If you suspect something is happening, don’t try to investigate it yourself. Don’t put ideas in the kid’s head but report it. In the United States, ChildLine (1-800-932-0313) is available 24 hours and will ask you a series of questions to help you identify if this is something that needs to be addressed. If it is serious, then they will follow up for you.
Let’s bring this topic into the light and together, let’s take care of our children!