Over the past week and a half, I have read some extremely disturbing reports of criminal acts against children. First there was the report of the janitor at Paideia. If you missed it, 51-year-old Josh Ensley was caught and arrested for videotaping boys and girls in the Paideia bathrooms. Full story.
The second arrest came last week Monday of a Pace Academy teacher, William Villemez. He was arrested for possessing child porn. Full story.
The most chilling story I read had to do with a senior football player at Westminster. At 17, William Houk turned himself in and was arrested for sexually assaulting a teammate. Full story. He is being charged as an adult.
As a parent, there are many things I can do to protect my children from the big bad evils of the world. But how am I supposed to protect them from random assaults in bathrooms, hidden cameras, and pervy purchasers of DVD’s (never mind the underworld that produces such filth)?
The mind share that these evil doers have occupied in my head is more than I care to admit. However, these realities are sad reminders of the sickness, and the sick-o’s that walk among us.
How Can We Protect Our Children?
I have taken, and facilitate, a child sexual abuse prevention training; and as faithfully as I obey traffic laws, I follow “The 7 Steps” to protecting children.
My kids have been educated on what to do and what to say. All youth serving organizations that have the “privilege” of serving my kids get questioned about their policies regarding the protection of children; and I am constantly trying to encourage other adults to become aware. But in three cases above, not even those tight measures would have helped; or would they?
In my head I keep seeing the innocence of childhood lives lost, stolen, and assaulted. How do these kids get in front of the camera? How is it that no one sees them heading into dangerous places or situations? What in the world would prompt aggravated sexual assault among a teammate? Where are the adults? Oh wait, in some cases they are standing by, watching, and/or recruiting.
In order for me to try to makes sense of such sadness, I have to remember that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
Obviously kids in child porn videos are among that statistic; and that really is one of the first pieces to the porn puzzle. Thirty – 40 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by a family member. Sixty percent are abused by people the family trusts and 90% know their abuser. Statistics also tell us that 40 percent are abused by older or larger children.
Stopping Child Porn
So what should we be doing to stop child pornography? We could start with demand: No demand, no videos. However, since the only thing we can control is ourselves, we need to make sure that we put in place boundaries for our kids. If we are vigilant about who is around our kids and where they are, we can reduce the possibility of them becoming sexually abused or part of an underground network.
One way to minimize opportunities for a predator is to reduce or eliminate one-on-one situations. Of course tutoring is a good example of when one-on-one is appropriate and/or beneficial. But it is also a time that should be interruptible, not behind a locked door, and could take place in a room with a window.
Leaving kids home with a sitter, or a nanny, is also a potential vulnerable time for kids, but parents can always drop in un-expectantly or arrive earlier then stated. Simply putting other adults on notice that you take precautions would greatly reduce the risk of your child becoming a victim.
Leaving kids home alone may sound like a safe option, but don’t forget about the internet. If kids are looking for attention, companionship, or are simply bored, the internet is an easy way for them to make connections. It is also an easy way for a perpetrator to gain access to your child.
I don’t know any more than you do regarding the sexual assault in the showers at Westminster, but I understand there were other students around. So my question is, “Why didn’t anyone say anything or try to stop it?”
How come something had to be “overheard” by a faculty member in order for this incident to come to light?
Maybe these kids simply didn’t know what to do, maybe they thought it was horseplay, or maybe they did tell a parent and the adult didn’t know what to do. I just don’t know. But I am going to tell you now, if you even SUSPECT that a child is a victim of child sexual abuse, you MUST act on your suspicions. Ask questions or call your local child advocacy center. They can help guide you through your next steps.
The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, (678) 904-2880, would be a good place to start. If you learn of a child being sexually abused or if a child discloses abuse to you, you MUST make a report. You need to call the police where the crime happened and DFACS where the child resides.
Tell the child you believe them and that it is not their fault. Tell them you are the adult and you are there to protect them. Thank them for telling you. If you think this would be really hard to do, you are correct. But you would need to maintain composure, steadiness, and focus on the child in front of you (not about what you would like to do to the abuser; leave that to the police). And if you think this is uncomfortable, imagine how uncomfortable that child must feel. It must be really difficult for an innocent to come forward.
In the first incident above, I am not sure how awareness could have stopped the filming in the bathrooms. In the second, I am positive awareness could have prevented some of the children in the pornographic videos from becoming victims. With the third crime, it is quite possible that stricter policies regarding the showers could have deterred the assault.
It really is up to adults to demand that proper policies are in place; it is up to adults to talk with their kids; and it is up to adults to know the risks, know the signs, and know what to do!
If you would like to help prevent child sexual abuse, please contact your local child advocacy center or contact Darkness to Light for a training in your area.