In a victory for people who value children’s safety over football, the powers that be from Penn State removed the statue of Joe Paterno from its campus this past weekend and severe sanctions were imposed on the football program. These were wise moves on so many different levels. Not only do they help the university get on track toward salvaging their reputation, but they also send a message that no matter one’s standing in a community, the covering up of sexual abuse will no longer be tolerated.
This is an issue that is very close to my heart. Not only am I the mom of a three-year-old boy who will undoubtedly play organized sports one day (or participate in band, chess or any number of other activities), I am also the coordinator of a program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service called the Child Abuse Prevention Program. I know the statistics. I know that sexual abuse is not a “stranger danger” issue – 93% of all cases are perpetrated by someone the child knows. I want to make sure that my son, and every other child out there, is safe from sexual predators. Believe it or not, we CAN keep our kids safe. How?
- Starting from an early age, we need to let our children know that it is not OK for anyone (aside from a doctor or the person responsible for their hygiene) to look at or touch the private parts of their body, or for them to look at or touch someone else’s private parts. This includes their penis/vagina, buttocks, breasts and sometimes lips and mouth.
- If someone does touch them inappropriately, they must say NO, run away, and tell a trusted adult. If the first adult they tell does not believe them or refuses to help, they must tell someone else. Keep telling until something is done.
- It is NEVER the fault of a child if someone were to touch them inappropriately. A child is NEVER “asking for it.”
I understand that this is a difficult subject , but if you approach it with the mindset that this is just like any other safety rule, it makes it a lot easier.
Another vital component to keeping children safe is that those who work with children professionally are thoroughly trained on their responsibilities as mandated reporters. They need to understand that if they have a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused, they must make a hotline report. If a supervisor tells them to keep it quiet, they are STILL responsible for making that report. If Joe Paterno and the rest of those involved at Penn State had obeyed this law, their reputation would not have been tarnished and countless children would have been spared the horror that was inflicted upon them.
The Child Abuse Prevention Program is available to present in your child’s school. Presentations on safe touch are offered for children Pre-K through 5th grade. In addition, Internet safety and sexual harassment prevention workshops are available. Finally, we offer training for both parents and educators. All of our programs are FREE OF CHARGE and since 1992, we have presented to over 300,000 children, parents and educators in the St. Louis metropolitan area. For more information, please contact me at (314) 812-9378.
Let’s all work together to keep our children safe.