Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Journey

Today's Hmmm... is to write about The Journey--a trip you've taken and returned from, changed. I wanted to write about the summer days spent on Grandmother and Granddad's farm, the delicious squish between my toes as I walked barefoot through the cow pastures; swimming in the Olympic sized water trough; sneaking bites of Grandmother's Home Made From Scratch Lemon Meringue Pie with Granddad until half of it was gone and then covering the gaping hole in the pie pan with the meringue as if she wouldn't notice... Or maybe about our trip to the doctor's office last week for check ups and flu shots, and how we also got headaches and and new creative ideas on how to inforce militant restrictions for our oldest daughter who locked herself in the bathroom at the dr's office and refused to emerge....even after the office had closed for the day. (Note to said dr's office: Keep keys to ALL locks in the office, lest someone require retrieving if they, say, have a heart attack behind a locked door, or lock themselves in the bathroom and spew loud and slanderous dialog at their parents for inflicting potential flu shot upon their person.)

I wanted to write about those things, until I took a trip last night to our neighborhood school.

I volunteer for a non profit organization that teaches children, parents, school staff and administration, and community members how to be proactive in protecting children from bully assault, sexual assault, and stranger abduction. Yesterday, we were asked to serve my daughters' school, my school, my community.

Unfortunately, my community has been affected by multiple incidents of sexual assault on a child over the last several months and the parents in our neighborhood are reeling...understandably so.

I walked into the room last night and sat on the last row. The school had brought in two different organizations as resources for the families affected and for our community as a whole. The pain and anger in the room were palpable and at times overwhelmed the good intentions of the administration and the charitable organizations there to help.

Families are mad at other families, parents are whispering within earshot of their children, the children know what's going on they're just not sure how to reconcile the information they've been given and they're acting out the chaos they feel on their peers.

It was one of the most agonizing things I have ever sat through. Parents and teachers so sad and wringing their hands at the fate of the children. Were steps taken to ensure their safety? Are we really changing the way these things are handled so that words like "oral sex" and "penetration" and "molestation" do not become part of the third grade vocabulary.

There was yelling and angry, accusatory remarks thrown at the administration and at parents of other children. Parents want to know who is ultimately responsible. Who is getting fired? Who can they hurt as badly their families are hurting right now? Whose head do they get on a platter? Since there are multiple under age offenders, there must be someone who is offending them, and they MUST be at the school. The parents are on a witch hunt. One father said, "I need some closure. I need someone to hand this off to."

There is no "handing it off," Dillweed. Your kid needs you to stand up and shoulder this with him. (disclaimer: Dillweed is not an official term, nor is name calling an official practice of the upstanding non profits associated with this situation.)

The national statistics are these:

  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
  • 70% of all rapes are commited against children.
  • 90% of childhood sexual abuse is committed by a known and trusted adult or adolescent.

Childhood sexual assault cannot be pinpointed on a map. It is not relegated to seedy sections of society. It cannot be labeled by color, race, ethnicity, social status, or income bracket. It is a putrid canker that thrives on secrecy and shame. Pedophiles need their victims to be silent, scared, and uninformed in order for abuse to be successful.

As parents, it is our responsibility to seek out as much information as we can get our hands on, to be vigilant about who our children are exposed to, and to inform and empower our kids about their rights as individuals. We are their first defense, but it is important that they are a member of the prevention team. We cannot send them out, blindly onto a battlefield of which they are unaware.

We have a long and arduous road ahead of us in my community. I am hopeful that as the wounds begin to scab over, and the emotions are a little less raw, we will be able to come together to form a healthy barricade for our children.

Please seek out information on Assault Prevention. Here are some good places to start:

Blue Sky Bridge

Child Assault Prevention


Lori said...

What a painful meeting for all involved. It makes my heart hurt and my stomach turn. Like all parents, it makes me dizzy, sick, and almost weepy to imagine my child ever being violated in anyway. But, I know I can't be so blind and naive as to believe it could never happen.

My heart goes out to you, your community, and every child and parent everywhere traveling such a horrific, unexpected journey.

Furrow said...

What horror. I'm speechless.

cry it out! said...

Great tips -- and scary stats. Thanks for the good information.


painted maypole said...

a hard post to read, as we all wish it weren't true. Thanks for posting it. Hoping for healing in your community....

I've had talks with The May Queen about where people can't touch her, etc... trying to keep it light and also reassuring her that if anything happens she needs to tell me and that she will NOT be in trouble. I can't imagine the rage and hurt I would feel if I ever have to hear such news from her.

Julie Pippert said...

Tough tough tough. It is as hard as you describe.

AWESOME post, though. I cannot applaud you enough for tackling this topic and putting out the information, along with the experience you had at your school.

As a parent volunteer at a Catholic church and public school, as well as Daisies, soccer, and so forth, I probably go through about 4-6 background checks annually. And of course I'm Virtus trained.

It is this serious. And I must say, sitting and listening to predators describe how they went about it is chilling, and nauseating.

I hope your community can pull together and recover. P&PTS.

And again, excellent post.

Beck said...

Oh God. That makes my heart hurt. That poor, poor child.
Same age as mine.

Oh, The Joys said...

It makes me worry...

Alpha DogMa said...

Yes, scapegoats. That's what we need. Not personal responsiblity or accountablity. Not knowledge or discussion. Some people - who are indeed Dillweeds - need to realize that life is not a Jerry Springer episode. Your language is not bleeped out and you can't punch someday and then make up back in the green room.

I believe that a key part of helping protect children and (if god forbid the unspeakable happens) helping them be able to accurately express their trauma is to teach our children the proper terms for their bodies. No talk of coochies or peepees or vageegees or weiners. Vulva and penis.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, E. Sorry to get up on my soap box and get all righteously indignant all over your blog.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

They're children.

They're all victims.

kittenpie said...

God, that is so horrifying to contemplate, yet we have to keep having that discussion, a bit at a time. Right now, we are up to how that is private, and no one should touch it except maybe moms and dads or in rare cases, teachers to help with washign and wiping, and sometimes the doctor will have to take a peek to make sure it's helathy. I think it's enough info for now, but it's something to revisit now and then, sadly.