There’s been a lot of news this past week on the front of childhood sexual abuse. As I am sure many of you or perhaps all of you are aware, the trials of Jerry Sandusky and Monsignor Lynn were completed and both were found guilty. I want to take a moment and commend the countless hours of work and effort that the prosecution put into these cases and also to the jurors for their decisions. The survivor and prevention-focused media should also be commended for the attention and coverage they gave to these cases. Most importantly, I’d like to commend the survivors who spoke out against both men. No matter the age, this was a tremendous task to undertake and without their courage, bravery, and tenacity these cases may have never come to light or gone so far.
Additionally, while the trials may be over, the effects of sexual assault and rape can continue for the many children involved in these cases. Acquiring justice through the legal system is only one way for a survivor to seek closure and healing. However, it does not reverse the abuse that happened and therefore many effects, be it emotional, mental, or physical, can still be very real and present. Healing, recovery, and coping occur completely at the pace of each survivor. It’s important that we give each survivor the support and resources that they need to make this journey for themselves.
It’s important to remember that despite how these two cases have finished almost as positively as possible, that they are not isolated incidents. These two men are not the only people who have sexually assaulted children. As scary as it may be to think about, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will have experienced childhood sexual assault. We can take so much more away from these two cases then the jubilation of the convictions. Our conversations about child sexual assault and what we can do to prevent it should continue past these cases and into the future. What is great is that there are so many different directions it can go and there’s room for everyone to get involved. There are many organizations that have fabulous resources and ideas to keep in mind when moving forward. Instead of rewriting the wheel, I’d like to point you in the direction of some…
- Vision of Hope is an organization that focuses on programs and education to prevent child sexual abuse. There are Internet safety programs for parents, education of family physicians and training for other professionals.
- The Hero Project is a media campaign focused on reducing child sexual assault by educating and motivating a variety of adults – parents, relatives, neighbors, etc – who regularly interact with children and have an opportunity to recognize if abuse is happening or at risk of happening. They also have a 24-hour helpline in case people have questions or suspect abuse.
- Stop It Now works to prevent the abuse of children through trainings, education, and downloadable resources. These resources are available and geared towards both individuals and for organizations.
- Darkness to Light is an organization that offers training and education to adults and gives adults the opportunity to become instructors in their own communities. It has a number of resources available online for adults to learn about creating healthy environment and recognizing warning signs.
Keep the conversation going. It IS possible to prevent and stop child sexual abuse. Start with these resources and think about how you can implement changes on an individual and organizational level.
WRITTEN BY: Stacey