Every day, we receive email alerts of the top stories regarding child sexual abuse. There are so many that it would overload our posts if we shared them via social media. Unless you're like us - looking to be notified of all these stories, you're probably not going to hear about them.
Here, though, are four of the top stories we've come across just this past week alone, and what, we feel, can be learned about the reality of child sexual abuse in our society.
Female Accused of sexually abusing 4 year old relative
What People Should Know:
Women that sexually abuse children, although in the minority of those that offend, often do so on behalf or with a partner/spouse or in exchange for monetary payment. It is suggested that such women are more likely to have previously experienced abuse and/or are in an unstable relationship or lifestyle (poverty/substance addiction) and exploit children for financial gain. Read more about female offenders here.
Guidance Counselor and Former music Teacher/Private Singing Coach
Convicted of raping 14 year old student
What People Should Know
- Any sort of private lessons where a child is alone with a peer/adult should be avoided or, a parent should consider staying for the lesson or stopping in unannounced from time to time. Any situation with a child in a 1:1 situation, that forbids parental visitation/observation should be avoided. Learn more about minimizing opportunity.
- Many sexual abusers are in age-appropriate relationships but turn to abusing children to fill a perceived "need" - often emotional or stress related. They often know that their behavior is wrong but rationalize their behavior and minimize the impact of the abuse on the child. This is by no means an "excuse" for their behavior, but rather, a warning - that even people that we would not expect to commit sexual abuse, may experience a change in their life where they lower their morality and create "thinking errors" - justifying their behavior. Learn more about the motivation of abusers.
- The fact that he was in a new position as a guidance counselor puts into question his motivation for such a position. It would have increased his 1:1 interaction with children and put him at an advantage to identify children that would be more susceptible to abuse (i.e. low self esteem).
MAN convicted on several charges arising from the
2010 molestation of a nine-year-old girl.
What People Should Know
- He had no prior felony convictions - most sexual offenders do not have a criminal record.
- He lived in the home with the girl - there is no mention that he was a relative. Children that live in a home shared with non-immediate family members (i.e. extended family, roommates, romantic partners or step parents) are at an increased risk of abuse.
- He sought out opportunities to be alone with the girl. All parents should be cautious of anyone - especially adults, that are alone with their children.
- He threatened her and told her that no one would believe her. It was only after several instances of abuse that the girl had the courage to tell someone. Children often do not tell someone right away, in many cases it takes years, and in some instances, survivors never tell. Read more about the impact on children and signs/symptoms of abuse.
Victim of abuse: bullied, Ostracized, shamed
- "I have discovered that when the offender is one of your own, the response is different to if the offender is one of 'them'," he said.
- "The community was more intent on protecting its good name than me," ... one rabbi told him reporting Hayman [his abuser] to police "would be committing a grave sin, like the worshiping of idols".
- When it became known that he had made a report to police, his adoptive family had "abandoned" him and he had been "cast out".
In nearly every conversation we've had with survivors of abuse, and there have been many, nearly every person disclosed that they had been blamed, shamed, and re-victimized by the very people they expected to support them.
There seems to be a paradox in our society - when a story of abuse comes to light there is an uproar for the death penalty, yet - when abuse hits home for a family/community, there are, almost inevitable, multiple people who stand by the abuser. They either minimize the reality of the abuse, put responsibility on the child for "their share" in the "relationship" (as it is often called, even in the media and by police), and/or, most often, people are, shockingly (at least to us), quick to offer "forgiveness," with the idea that the abuser is sorry, that they made a "mistake" and will stop, suggesting that punishment/jail time should be minimal.
This mentality, not only hurts the victim, but it discourages others from coming out about their abuse. The solution? More people that are willing to speak out about the issues of child sexual abuse. No more being "shocked" that this is happening in our own communities, when we have the rare opportunity to face reality. The time is now to take responsibility for the safety of the children in our families, in our towns, and do what we can to make more people aware that 1:4 girls and 1:6 boys are at risk of being sexually abused, and educating people on what we can do to prevent and stop abuse.
We promise, no matter how uncomfortable it is for us adults to think and talk about this issue, it is infinitely worse for the children that are suffering from it.