Saturday, April 10, 2010

Melrose Goes From Darkness To Light

Last year at this time Melrose, MA was reeling from the revelation that a Melrose YMCA staff member had been indicted on 20 charges of child rape. This year the town is taking a lead, pushing taboos aside, speaking up and out about child sexual abuse prevention. On April 29, Melrose will sponsor a town-wide Stewards of Children training, empowering 500 adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Toward that end, this past week, I trained 15 new Stewards facilitators. These new leaders will not only participate in the town-wide training, but also take Stewards back to their own youth-serving organizations, neighborhoods, businesses and friends to continue educating the adult population.
My hat is off to Mayor Rob Dolan and the great folks I've met from Melrose, at the Y and beyond, who are working so hard to get out the prevention message. Unlike so many organizations, communities and families who discover abuse in their midst, here there are no conspiracies of silence, not from the town or the Y. Because of that, and their conviction to do the right thing in the name of safety for children, many more children will have happy and whole childhoods and, ultimately, happy and whole lives.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Child Sexual Abuse In the News - It's Time to Embrace Prevention

A recent New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein states, "the Vatican's inaction was not unusual." That is correct and such inaction extends far beyond the Vatican.
A 2007 Associated Press report on abuse in US public schools found that, overwhelmingly, when it became known to school officials that staff members had violated a child, decisions were made to quietly dismiss offenders, allowing them to find other jobs, in other towns, moving on to unsuspecting victims. No police reports, no investigations, no trials.
When a young member of the Boys Choir of Harlem disclosed his abuse to a staff member, no one told the police or released the accused from his position. He remained in close proximity not only to his victim, but also to other, unsuspecting children. He was reported eventually, but the demise of the choir, according to reports, is directly related to the inaction of the staff.
Every time I lead an abuse prevention training I remind attendees that child sexual abuse (CSA) is a CRIME. It must be reported to law enforcement. The accused must have no further access to the victim or other children. The decision to report is not a roundtable discussion for the affected organization - it is a requirement incumbent upon the individual suspecting abuse. Clergy, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, and a long list of other folks are mandated reporters, obligated to report upon a "reasonable suspicion." In some states, everyone is a mandated reporter.
The secrecy which has surrounded CSA is a travesty that has endangered untold numbers of children throughout the years, in religious communities, in schools, in scouts, in Y's, in families. It is time to wake up and recognize that adults create environments that either enable abuse or help to prevent it. Children who have been abused carry that abuse with them throughout their lives - their life lens is never the same and it is our job as adults to protect them from the abuse as best we can.
When will we stop protecting offenders and start placing the children first?