When the news shows report stories about children being harmed, people’s hearts go out and vigils are held. And then, life goes on for the general public. Sometimes crimes are so compelling we pass laws like Ambers Law or Megan’s law or even Stephanie’s law, with the hope of protecting more children. We need different legislation, that is unquestionable, but what we need more than different law is an educated judicial system as well as an educated general public.
As it stands today, people come to understand child sexual abuse by direct contact. When it affects your life, you are forced to learn about it. One troubling aspect is that when we think we know a person we can, and do, decline this learning. That denial leaves thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of children at risk a year. Some of us break free of that blinding adoration and learn the lessons. Some of us will dig deep and find the willingness to see the truth for what it is, many others do not.
Anna Salter, one of my favorite authors on the subject of child sexual crimes, talks about starting her first psychotherapy office in a small town in her book ‘Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists & other sex offenders’. In it she says “…it seemed two out of every three children I saw in the small mental health center where I worked were sexually or physically abused or both. That struck me as very odd indeed. At the time, official estimates suggest incest affected one in a million. My small New England town had 15,000 people in it, yet it had a stunning number of incest cases, not to mention out-of-home abuse, rape, physical abuse, neglect and domestic violence…Over time I developed the fantasy that my small town in New England was similar to the square mile in Mexico where all the monarch butterflies go. It must be, I thought, the center of violence in the known universe.” Mrs. Salter goes on to teach us, her fantasy was significantly nicer than the reality across the United States of America, and no doubt the world.
Child sexual abuse thrives upon a network of deceit, but we are not taught this. Judges, prosecutors, social workers, non-offending parents, teachers and others, who make rulings and important judgments about the lives of small children are not taught the characteristics, habits and tactics of child sexual molesters and rapists. What is most frustrating, is that what blocks this education from happening is the one thing that is intended to ensure a child’s safety to begin with; morality. A host of things prevent mass education about child sexual abuse, beginning with our judgments about sex and sexuality. We go to church to be guided in our morality and yet there are studies that prove child sexual abusers are four times more likely to be church goers over non-offenders. Why? What we have learned from the sexually deviant themselves, is that parents are far more likely to trust a person they meet in church.
How many single mothers are going to church right now, in hopes of meeting a ‘good’ guy? How many churches are leaving pamphlets about sex offenders in their lobbies, or talking about signs of a sexual predator on their pulpits? How many churches offer “body awareness and safety classes” to children as young as 2? I ask because, this is what we can do. This, and many more opportunities to educate the general public are available right now.
Our country is in a heated debate about the rights of the transgender among us, as though they simply appeared on the landscape of sexual choice in recent times. In fact, many ancient cultures have stories and teachings about such people, that do not include radical hate from God. In American Indian cultures transgender, and oftentimes gay members of their societies were held in very high esteem and thought to be more spiritually balanced than others because they so obviously held both the male and female aspects of being human.
What do transgender people and pedophiles have in common? The general public’s uneducated judgment, is all they hold in common. Teaching people about the nature of human sexuality is paramount in protecting children from sexual predators. When we get real about making a difference for children, we will address our social judgments about sex and sexuality. When enough of us commit to bringing down the number of child sexual abuse victims, we will focus on ‘consent’ and teach social acceptance, tolerance and appreciation for the colorful array of humanity while stressing a child’s right to grow up without being sexually manipulated.
Many parents have said to me with wide faced grins “when my child was 12 we sat them down and had ‘the talk’”. In these moments, I take a slow deep breath before I respond because waiting until a child is 12 to explain about the birds and the bees completely nullifies you as your child’s protector from sex crimes, and parents must be taught this.
No matter how uncomfortable it makes us, teaching is the platform for protecting kids from being sexually exploited. When we have specific court rooms that deal solely with sex crimes against minor children where mothers and other non-offending guardians, are not made into hysterical lunatics because Judges have been educated about the tactics, skills and traits of narcissists and pedophiles, then we will be making a difference for minor children. When PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) is treated as the pedophilic propaganda that is and put in the garbage, we will be on a path of protecting children. When ACE [Adverse Childhood Experience] and studies like it, are embedded in child rearing, lawmaking as well as policy making and educational standards, minor children will have rights and adults will be held to higher standards.
Educating, teaching, enlightening our world about the broadness of human sexuality is a tremendous task, many have tried before. However, today is a new dawn, the general public is longing for a sense of safety and rightness and we are all moving more and more towards a place of non-judgment and acceptance. We cannot realistically castrate and, or jail every pedophile, we cannot realistically ship every pedophile off to an island in attempts to live without fear. We can however, protect every child. We can campaign for non-judgment, acceptance AND, the end of pedophilia without forcing anyone into a closet of shame and God based rage. I didn’t say it would be easy, but I do believe it can be done.
Advocate and Author
Annalise grew up in the Midwest but moved to Denver, Colorado more than 20 years ago. Her oldest child is 19, and she has a son in high school as well as two step daughters. Teaching her kids to cook is a family favorite! In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching movies and connecting with friends and family.