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