Only days after her daughter Ashley Judd published a memoir describing a childhood of neglect, country music star Naomi Judd opened up about the trauma in her own childhood in this past Sunday’s premiere of “The Judds” on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. “I grew up in a family of secrets. There was a lot of pathology in the family. My first memory was when I was 31/2 and a man was trying to sexually abuse me. That was my very first memory, and I can remember everything about it” she said.
In this experience, Naomi is not alone. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced childhood sexual abuse. About 93 percent of victims were abused by someone they knew; more than 1/3 of the victims were abused by family members, and 40% were abused by another child.
Most prevention efforts have focused on encouraging children to tell someone if something happens. Upon reflecting on the abuse she experienced, however, Naomi said, “I’ve never said anything to anybody. I just kept it all to myself.”
Unfortunately, in this, Naomi is also not alone. The vast majority of childhood sexual abuse cases go unreported, and clinicians note that children tend to downplay or even recant reported incidents out of a desire to protect their family. Yet, it is the adults who care for the children who should be protecting them in the first place.
As with the prevention of adult sexual violence, true prevention requires a focus on the perpetrator, the person who chooses to engage in the inappropriate or illegal behaviors. And the earlier we can intervene, the better.
Currently, while child care centers train their staff on when a child is expected to talk, walk or even bite other children, the staff receive virtually no training on sexual development. They report that they see sexual behaviors on almost a daily basis, but they can’t tell whether the behavior is expected and normal. They also don’t know how to effectively respond. They thus miss an important opportunity to intervene early in order to both prevent the further development of inappropriate sexual behaviors and to identify victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The She did WHAT? He said WHAT? How to Respond to the Sexual Behaviors of Children curriculum equips child care staff with exactly that - a model for responding to sexual behaviors in a way that promotes healthy development and protects children from sexual abuse. BARCC will be offering free sessions on how to train staff on this curriculum on April 25 in Amherst and April 27 in Fall River. The sessions will provide participants with networking opportunities with other professionals interested in providing training on this topic, a training binder and a CD that includes the curriculum in English and Spanish.
With these trainings, we now have a chance to help break the silence for the next 3-year-old and more importantly, prevent the next perpetrator from learning these behaviors.
This is a guest blog post written by Ada Wan and Melissa Gopnik