Sexual abuse, Male survivor, recovery, Child Sexual Abuse Survivor

Breaking the Silence: Addressing Child Sexual Abuse

A few weeks ago, I read an article about the Archdiocese of Baltimore allowing over 150 priests to sexually abuse over 600 children dating back to the 1940s. The article reported how these children were scared for their lives, not believed, and even made to feel like they were being punished by God for the abuse that they suffered.

It’s infuriating to think about these heinous acts ruining children’s lives, and how they had to carry this burden for decades. Reading through the 500-page report detailing the abuses, cover-ups, and negligence of the Archdiocese, I had a visceral experience that left me feeling both heartbroken and outraged.

The Catholic Church isn’t the only one. Other religious organizations have faced similar allegations, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and various Protestant denominations. And these are not the only organizations, schools, sports clubs, and many other institutions have had sexual abuse allegations. How did we miss that the people we trust with our children could be potentially dangerous to them? It’s human nature, we believe people who work with children are trustworthy. In the 80s, there was an awareness campaign intending to protect children. They use the slogan “Stranger danger” to bring awareness to children that a strange could hurt them. The problem with the “Stranger Danger” slogan is that it left out a large population of people who are the real danger. The real danger comes from people who are in proximity and have access to children. While the children and their parents were looking out for the stranger, it was the trusted adult who was hurting them. Now, here is the good news. Most people who work with children do so because they want to keep them safe and help them develop. But there are a few things you should do to keep your child safe.

Parents, the last thing you want to think about is your child being hurt. But educating yourself and others about the signs of abuse can prevent it from happening. Speak to your children early. It’s important to talk to children about their bodies and boundaries early on so that they can understand what is and isn’t appropriate behavior from others. Tailor your language and tone to the child’s age and understanding. Use clear and simple language that they can understand, and avoid using overly complicated or graphic terms. Explain to children that certain parts of their bodies are private and that no one should touch them without their permission. Teach them that it’s okay to say “no” to any touch that makes them uncomfortable. Let children know they can talk to you or another trusted adult about anything that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable. Encourage them to come to you with questions or concerns they may have. Help children understand that it’s okay to set boundaries with others and teach them to respect other people’s boundaries as well. Help children identify trusted adults they can turn to for help if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable. This can include parents, teachers, coaches, or family members. These tips can help keep your child safe.

It’s time to put an end to this culture of silence that surrounds childhood sexual abuse. Let’s work together to create a world where all children are safe, valued, and protected. And if you need more information on how to keep your child safe from sexual abuse, or to learn the signs that something may be wrong, please contact me. If you suspect abuse, you can call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 and, of course, in an emergency, dial 911.

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