Apr 252013 5 Responses

Step Up, Speak Out About Abuse

In 2013, area churches were asked to use a Sunday to speak about child sexual abuse. I didn’t want to. With over 30k verses in the Bible and only 52 Sundays in a year, a church can’t be giving away Sundays for certain topics. Yet I went to a meeting and was convinced.

The statistics are almost too overwhelming to comprehend:

  • A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds
  • More than 5 children die every day because of child abuse
  • 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way
  • The average pedophile has 150 victims in their lifetime

Yet it was another stat that convinced me wemust do something: it takes 7 adults to know about abuse before 1 adult will do something. 7 to 1. I didn’t believe it when I first heard it. Statistics are easy to manipulate so I assumed someone tilted the scales to make their point. But then I started hearing statements:

  • An educator said, “That doesn’t happen in those types of families.”
  • A friend pointed out how perfect a child acted, “She’s like the perfect adult at age 4.”
  • A local man was accused of abuse and the community turned on the victim.

Three events made it clear that good people can deny the facts in front of them because they don’t want to see what is actually happening. Obviously abuse happens across socioeconomic lines and in every type of family.

Clearly a 4-year-old shouldn’t act perfectly. Being unwilling to get in trouble is not a sign of health but one of sickness.

We all know an accusation doesn’t prove guilt, yet when a community attacks someone who makes the claim, a loud message is sent to anyone who has been abused—”Speak at your own peril.”

These events convinced me of the need of devoting a Sunday to speak about child sexual abuse. The response was overwhelming. I knew people in our congregation had suffered abuse, but there was no way for me to prepare for how many had suffered. In the following weeks through phone calls, letters, e-mail, and personal meetings many people told of their abuse for the first time. That’s an important step because healing can only begin when we bring to light what has happened.

There are three steps we can take in stepping up and speaking out against child abuse:

We can tell our stories. Few things are more powerful than the story of someone who has been abused and has the courage to tell their story. Physical and sexual abuse flourish in silence, but they can die from sound. One story can inspire another victim to speak; it can inspire another advocate to reach out; it can change a culture from apathy to activism. By telling our stories, we can erode the shame and secrecy which often define abuse.

We can love our kids. Most abuse  happens at home from a parent, step-parent or family member. Parental addiction puts a child at a greater risk for abuse. By seeking help from our addictions, we are protecting our children. By strengthening our marriages, we are protecting children. Anything which strengthens the health of a parent or a home, increases the protection of a child. We can watch what our kids are doing; where they are going; who is showing interest in them; and always have a healthy skepticism about others.

We can vow to report anything we suspect. For many, this is legally mandated. Doctors, teachers, pastors and a host of other professions are legally mandated to report any suspicion of physical or sexual abuse in the life of a child. It is not their job to investigate or convict or even to be absolutely certain. It is their job to report a reasonable suspicion and allow the proper authorities to do their job. What others legally have to do, we all should willfully choose to do. If we suspect child abuse, we must report it. It is easier to decide now what we will do rather than waiting until it happens, then deciding what to do. Commit to yourself that if you ever have reasonable suspicion, you will report.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the stories and statistics of child sexual abuse. If we aren’t careful it can cause us to be apathetic about the issue. Yet there is another way to look at it. If you are willing to report what you see, then you are willing to do the work of 7 people.

Instead of focusing on the 7 to 1 ratio, imagine if we are willing to always be the 1. This is the gift we can give to the children in our community. They will always have the 1 near them. They will always have the 1 watching out for them. They will always have the 1 they need.

You and I can be the 1, but to do so we cannot wait until the situation presents itself to decide what we will do. We must choose now; we must promise ourselves that we will make the call if we are ever put in that situation.

By choosing now, we won’t have to debate then what is the proper course of action. By choosing now, we will call then and possibly save a child’s life.


5 Responses to Step Up, Speak Out About Abuse
  1. […] The church has a long tradition of getting this wrong. For years, people have been allowed to perp... https://www.kevinathompson.com/accused-accusers
  2. […] It took two years, but last month, the gruesome video of Joe Mixon assaulting a woman went public. I... https://www.kevinathompson.com/why-powerful-men-dont-protect-women

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