Keeping the Children Safe
KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE
Mr. Sandusky, a coach at Penn State, was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse to several boys. Monsignor Lynn, a clergy secretary, was found guilty for shielding predatory priests. At Horace Mann, an exclusive preparatory school, a teacher admitted to sexually abusing students. In Maine, Robert Joubert, a youth baseball and hockey coach who runs Seacoast Baseball Academy in York is facing sexual abuse charges against boys he coached in New Hampshire.
These incidents all occurred within the last few weeks. They are the tip of the iceberg.
REACH, Oxford County’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, knows all too well how often children are sexually abused. Two thirds of all sexual abuse cases reported to law enforcement agencies, and to sexual assault centers, involve the sexual abuse of our children. One in three females and one in six males are sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetime.
Children have a right to be safe, and it is up to adults to look out for children – to know where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. In addition, it is up to adults to have ongoing conversations with young children and teens about what is and isn’t safe regarding their bodies, what rights children have, and who children can talk to about anything.
It is up to adults to educate children about ways that some adults may try to hurt them – adults they know, and may know well. Often, it is adults that are well known and respected in the community. Mr. Sandusky “groomed” the boys he sexually abused. Children need to know the tricks some adults use. Since 2007, REACH Educators have been presenting the Child Lures program to elementary classes throughout Oxford County. This program informs children about many of the ways adults (and teens) lure children to trust/trick them into doing what an adult wants.
Education is power and may decrease the prevalence of sexual abuse to our children. The Child Lures program discusses many of the lures used by Mr. Sandusky (and others) to gain access and the cooperation of the multiple boys he sexually abused – authority, ‒affection, bribery, games, hero, job, drugs, and threats.
One of REACH’s goals is to affirm that children have the right to say no to anyone if they feel unsafe or lured. It’s not enough that children hear that message only from REACH. Children need many of the adults in their lives to re-affirm that message, to support the right of children to be safe, to talk about more than only stranger danger, to take children seriously when a child discusses their concerns, and to take appropriate action.
It shouldn’t take multiple incidents and multiple victims before those who are victimized are believed, and action is taken. Together, we can work toward ending sexual abuse, and holding those who offend more accountable. REACH is available by phone – 743-9777, or in person to discuss with parents and community members actions they can take to better protect, or respond to, children.
REACH Outreach Advocate