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Why Sexual Abuse Prevention Education Is Not Enough

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This year, every school in our state was told they would need to do sexual abuse prevention programming for their students. This is awesome. This is progress. We are starting to talk about it, we are starting to move away from this delusion of stranger danger and we are teaching kids how to recognize the signs. Trust me, I am all for it. However, there are so many children who do not report. I am one of those statistics, and I can tell you a prevention education program would not have helped in my case.

• What is PTSD?

Last year I listened to one of these programs where they had the children chanting a cute little rhyme about trusting themselves, try to say no and telling an adult. However, the reality is that many children are not able to say no. They do not have that option, because the people who are abusing them are in positions of power.

Children are told to tell an adult and keep telling until someone believes and helps them. However, speaking from experience, you know that either those around you will be incarcerated and you will be sent away from foster home to foster home, or they will not be and then you have to live in an environment that is at best hostile and at worst dangerous; you don’t tell. Keeping the secret was what kept me alive.

Now let’s say a child tells and the investigation happens. So many cases do not go through completion due to lack of evidence or other factors. Many victims are let down by the justice system when they are re-traumatized going through the court process and the individual is either not found guilty or gets a slap on the wrist.

Children who live in toxic environments are the ones who tend to know more about the system. I knew all of these things growing up, and to tell me to report at that time in my life likely would have made everything far worse and even put my life in danger.

We have got to do more. Prevention education is fantastic. We absolutely should make sure kids know what child sexual abuse is, the signs of grooming, the concept of consent, etc. But what I fear we lose when we pass these laws and requirements is the other pieces. We put the prevention on the child’s shoulders instead of looking at the systems that enable these abuses to happen. When we should be addressing social issues that lead to increased risk of abuse, we should be examining our justice system, we should be funding child protective workers so their plates are not overloaded and they can do thorough investigations, we should be funding mental health care.

If we continue to look at single area fixes for issues as complex as child sexual abuse, we are failing those who are victimized. As a society we need to step up and protect our children by making the changes that will improve their quality of life. If not, we will continue to lose more children.

Getty image by nantonov

Originally published: February 4, 2021
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