When you hear about child sexual abuse, many thoughts might go through your mind:

“They should go to jail.”

“Parents should keep a closer eye on their children.”

“Who would do that to a child?”

These statements distance us further from what has happened.  These thoughts make it easier to dismiss the sexual abuse because it happened to someone else – whether with celebrity status, or it happened a long time ago, or it happened within a certain institution.  We believe it will never happen to the children that we know.

We need to shift our thinking though because 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday and 90% of victims are abused by someone they know and trust.  The thought that goes through your mind should be, “What can I do to prevent it from happening in the first place?”  As parents, professionals, or simply members of the community, we need to learn to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse, react when child sexual abuse is disclosed, and respond.  We also need to learn how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

In the case of Josh Duggar, it appears that not only those who are considered mandated reporters failed in their job, but other adults who were aware of what happened, including his parents.  So what exactly is a “mandated reporter”?  According to our national partner Darkness to Light, “A mandated reporter is one who is required by law to report reasonable suspicions of abuse. Mandated reporters typically include social workers, teachers, health care workers, child care providers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, among others but keep in mind that some states designate all citizens as mandated reporters. Regardless of specific mandated reporters, all persons can and should always reports suspected abuse. It is the job of all adults to protect children.”

It is not the job of a child to protect themselves from strangers or from bad things happening to them.  It is the responsibility of the adults in a child’s life to do that.  And if a child is sexually abused, or is the one sexually abusing other children, we must know how to react and respond.

“40% of child sexual abuse is by an older, more powerful youth” — www.d2l.org

Do you know how to recognize, react and respond?  Within the last 3 years, SCAN has trained over 825 Northern Virginia community members to be Stewards of Children using the curriculum created by Darkness to Light.  They know how to recognize, react, and respond.  Shouldn’t you?

If you are interested in becoming trained or organizing a training within your organization, please contact me. We cannot do this alone. Children need all of us.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

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