It is easy to look back at what happened to the over 100 victims of Larry Nassar and see who failed these athletes; Michigan State, USA Gymnastics, coaches and parents who didn’t believe their daughters. But what if we never had to look back? What if it had never happened? I find myself sounding like a broken record yet again when I say it is not enough to hear horror stories about Larry Nassar, but we must DO something so that no other children are sexually abused. So what can we DO? Let me provide you with a list.
- If you see something, say something. This catch phrase applies to everything these days. You do not need to be a mandated reporter to make a report of child abuse (including child sexual abuse) or neglect.
- When a child (your own or another child who TRUSTS you) tells you that someone is hurting them, BELIEVE THEM. On average, 5% of claims by a child are false. That means 95% are TELLING the TRUTH.
- When someone is crossing a barrier with a child (ongoing tickling, inappropriate stories and jokes, closing doors, being alone with a child) speak up and let them know that behavior is not ok.
- Make sure that programs and activities that your child is a part of has policies and procedures in place that protect children. Ask to see them. If they do not have them, offer to help draft something.
- If you choose to allow your child to attend sleepovers at a friends house, ask the parents to show you where the kids will sleep, who else will be home, are doors left open or closed, will they have internet access in the middle of the night…Whatever questions you have – ask. Whatever rules you would have for your own child – consider them when your child is away from you.
- Reduce or eliminate the times your child is left one on one with an adult. Even if you know and trust the adult. 90% of children are sexual abused by someone the child knows and trusts.
- Have open and ongoing conversations with your children about their bodies, the parts of their body that others should not touch, and about sex.
- Take the Stewards of Children, Darkness to Light training. Contact SCAN to set up a training with an organization you are a part of or with a group of parents who simply want to learn how to protect children from child sexual abuse.
Do not sit there and think someone else will do it, or I alone won’t be able to make a difference. That could not be farther from the truth. Chose one action and help protect children. They are worth it! And we owe it to them.
— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager + Authorized Darkness to Light Facilitator