Look at this kid. Look at them. They need your help, and badly. We are not prioritizing the prevention of harm. We react to it. We wait until kids are crying to do anything about it. When it comes to child sexual abuse, this is not good enough.
There are a lot of attacks on prevention. Most of them are subtle, and you barely even notice them. Like the attack on the judge who presided over the Brock Turner case — again focusing on what happens after a sexual assault, rather than trying to prevent it before that point. Or every time you see “sex offender” in the news (which is often), as if everyone with that label is by default a risk to the community while the facts say otherwise.
Meanwhile, a mother cannot visit the park with her kids because of a teenage mistake, teens are getting arrested for sexting, and republicans shoot down K-12 consent education in Minnesota because… I honestly have no idea why you would shoot down teaching kids about consent with all the #metoo stuff going on. Not only that, we have numerous organizations — Stop Abuse Campaign, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Parents For Megan’s Law, and a host of others whose primary purpose is not to prevent abuse, no. Their goal is to react after it happens by arresting and pushing ever-increasing punishments at offenders in the hopes people will think twice before committing a sex crime. In their eyes, more enforcement is the solution.
This is not working. The only thing this is accomplishing is putting the focus on reacting to sexual crimes rather than trying to prevent them. It keeps the focus on reaction, not prevention. We need community-wide education. We need to stop emoting at the subject of child sexual abuse, and learn what the facts are. We need to learn that 93% of abusers are people the child knows and trusts, that 35.6% of abusers are juveniles, that two-thirds of abusers are attracted to adults, and that 95% of new sex crimes are committed by those with no criminal record.
But no one cares what the facts are. They do not. It is blatantly obvious at this point. The goal is not stopping sex crimes, it never has been. The goal is revenge and punishment. The goal is to dehumanize and otherize a group of people in society so we have someone to hate. I hate to sound like a conspiracy nut, but it seems to me the point is to trample human rights under the guise of protecting children. “If it saves just one child, we should give up our right to a freer internet.” NO! ENOUGH!
If we are going to protect children, we need to do what works. Period. End of story. If we are not willing to do that, if we continually shift the blame, then we are letting the aforementioned organizations tell us what to think, instead of having the critical thinking skills to do it ourselves. We let them tell us the facts, rather than investigating the research and having the courage to move past that yuck reaction to this topic. In doing so, we tell them that it is okay to lie under the auspices of protecting children.
This is not good enough. We need to wake up. It takes a community to let a child be sexually abused, a large swath of people ignoring the signs and the feeling in their gut because “We know Uncle Bob and he would never do such a thing! The child must be lying.” It is going to take a community to fix that. That starts with YOU.
If you want children to stop being sexually abused, here are five things you can do:
- Learn the facts. Yes, the facts, the raw data. And do not take my word for what they are! I put citations on my website for a reason, so check what I am telling you! Do your homework, and learn the issue.
- Correct mistakes when you see them. Yes, when someone talks about that pedophile who molested a child, tell them pedophiles are people with an attraction and a child rapist is someone who harms children. When someone says the child could be lying, tell them only 4–8% of victims lie about it! Speak up!
- Pick up the phone, yes, the phone, and tell your legislators you want fact-based measures that will prevent sexual harm before it happens. No, do not write them an email. They will not read it. Call them.
- Push for sex education, and consent education. Tell other parents and teachers that you want your child taught a sex-positive way of dealing with relationships, boundaries, sexuality, and physical health. Get past that discomfort, because if you are not willing to teach kids about sex and related topics, they will find out on their own. We teach kids what to do with their arms and legs and when it is appropriate to use them, but not their penis or vagina. That is negligent.
- Talk about it. Talk about sex abuse. Have discussions. Push people outside their comfort zone. If you are religious, start a dialogue. Talk about it in your small group or Bible study or whatever it is you do with your religion. If you are not religious, host a lunch and talk to people, anyone who will listen. Tie them to a chair and make them listen (not really).
If we hope to stop child sexual abuse, it starts with you. Not your legislator. Not me. Not survivors. YOU. If you are not willing to stand up on this issue and move past the difficulty of this topic to make a positive contribution, you are effectively saying that it is okay for children to be sexually abused. It takes a community to enable sexual abuse, and a community to stop it.
So get to work. One advocate or even a handful are not enough to protect children. We need your help.