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?

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