A Swirl of Thoughts on Child Abuse
This is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It makes me swirl with many thoughts and I’ll record some here:
I seek to raise awareness not fear. This is hard to accomplish on the subject of child abuse but I remind myself we should not fear fear either… and some levels of fear are healthy. We can be afraid and not be oppressed by it.
I remember when working as a chaplain in Atlanta what it was like being called to the children’s hospital when abuse was suspected… it is hell for everyone, and there may be no more painful moment than realizing that the perpetrator loves the victim… truly does, but is still a perpetrator of abuse.
I have been dragged in personally to investigations that turned out false and they were hell… but its no reason not to attend to suspicions of abuse – in the world of regrets I’d rather regret too much vigilance than having allowed abuse (thus being the abuser) through neglect. This is hard… I think we are all more enabling and/or ambivalent towards protection than we like to admit. We are convenience driven and seeking protections of vulnerable persons (in any setting and in any way) is inconvenient.
A friend shared a quote from a movie (Spotlight) that has stayed with me, “It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a village to abuse a child.”
I have sat in so many security conversations around buildings that continue to imagine the great threat is a random person off the street. This does happen, however, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics tell us that 90% of abuse of children happens from someone that child knew. More over they are often people who are friendly, caring, approachable, and trustworthy — even more, in leadership. This is what creates the setting for abuse. The very things that make us feel safe are often the very structures that support the abuser. Let us think about that long and hard and question where we focus our efforts on creating greater awareness and safety.
Education! Know the signs, know the people, ask the story – be willing to risk fear and confrontation for the sake of wholeness!
My son has a strong sense of shame. He’s goofy and class clowny and gets in trouble and then feels horrible about it. My greatest worry is that this makes him keep information to himself if he thinks it will get him in trouble or cause him shame and that worries me to NO END about how easily that makes him a target of abuse. So much energy trying to make sure he will always talk to me and that I don’t jump to authoritarian disciplinarian so he will keep talking to me. We need to do this with all the people in our life…. because life is not meant to be left alone – and when we are, we become easy targets for abuse.
There are windows in every door in most buildings now. We do background checks on volunteers making them sure we fear them. We have two adult rules… and… and… and… its all worth it! No matter that IT IS inconvenient. And no matter that it does create openings for for letting fear rule our lives. Somehow we must live in that tension where we recognize the healthiness of that fear while still living a life of hospitality and openness to the “other.”
I will not give up on either value – I can do no other.