Monday, October 12, 2009

Awareness and knowledge as life-saving commodities

This post was triggered by a very short article that made me go "hmm." Bishop Raymond Lahey was recently arrested in Ottawa, Canada on charges of child pornography possession. These are the sentences that gave me pause:

"Last August, Lahey managed a multi-million dollar settlement over child-abuse accusations against priests of the Nova Scotia diocese that go back to the 1950s. On behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, he apologized, saying that he hoped 'to never again have to deal with such reprehensible behavior.'"

In hindsight, it appears that the fox was apologizing for the behavior of the wolves.

To extend the metaphor, in the world of child sexual abuse (CSA), scavenging foxes and predatory wolves don't have easily recognizable taxonomic markings. They look like regular members of the human species. They know how to use human language to manipulate others and cover up their true natures. They are only revealed in their actions, which are predatory and hurtful to the most vulnerable members of our species.

In the struggle between child predators and a civil and compassionate society, assets and liabilities are not measured in terms of land speed; or horns, hoofs or claws. Instead, individual or societal ignorance is a human predator's best asset. Awareness, information and knowledge swing the advantage in the other direction.

Children have lost years of their life to abuse because they did not know: what was going on; who to tell; that they could tell; or they feared what would happen if they told. These tales sadden me greatly. Adults have let down children by responding badly, sometimes refusing to believe that a father, other trusted relative or prominent community leader could possibly be a predator. These stories sadden and also anger me.

Awareness and education are so important in the fight against child predators. Children should be taught body safety rules, and also what to do if they are violated. Adults should know, in advance, how to respond to a child's report of abuse. Human predators thrive in our darkness; we will protect ourselves better by turning up the light.

I am always interested in who is doing what about my concerns. Below are links to a couple of programs and information sources for children and adults:

Childhelp's Good Touch/Bad Touch program: Research-based, check it out!

Darkness to Light's 7 Steps to Protecting our Children: "Preventing, Recognizing and Reacting Responsibly to Child Sexual Abuse-A Guide for Responsible Adults"

(The news story about Lahey was found via Twitter user @BraveKidsVoices, a tireless advocate for child abuse awareness)

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