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We Need to Place the Burden on Adults to Prevent Child Abuse

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Sexual predators are left to victimize without any interventions to stop them before they abuse the first victim. We seem to have no prevention strategies to child sexual abuse that include dealing with the offender before they have the wherewithal to strike. We are putting the entire burden on children to prevent, or after the fact to tell, so that the perpetrator can be caught and stopped. This is untenable and is not working for children or society.

I remember watching afters school specials on TV in the early ’80s. They were of varied topics, but one I remember was about how not to be abused and kidnapped. I found it interesting. After it was over my mom asked us if we would go with a stranger who was offering us ice cream. I said no; my brother responded yes. The irony was not lost on me that my mom was showing me a video on how to avoid abuse, but it was happening in her own house, right underneath her nose and possibly with her blessing. I was being sexually abused and exploited and no one was coming to my rescue, but I was being told by prevention programs that it was my job to stop it. These types of TV programs and advocacy groups popped up all over during my childhood. I even lived in the town where the first child advocacy center was started. The programs taught kids if a stranger tries to touch you to say no or stop. To run tell an adult and keep telling until someone listens to you.

Even though most child sexual abuse is within the family, no one was talking about that and certainly not to me.

Why didn’t anyone stop my perpetrators before they abused me? I was an innocent child who was no match for a pedophile. Why didn’t someone talk to him or her about having sexual feelings for your child and how to seek help if that is happening to you. Why aren’t their public relations campaigns advertising for help for those who are contemplating crossing that line? Why aren’t we talking about this in locker rooms, board rooms, around water coolers, at PTA meetings or in social clubs? Maybe if we gave voice to the problem instead of blaming children, we could move the needle in a positive
direction. Perpetrators need help to not offend, and we need those who have
power to make this happen.

In all the child sexual abuse prevention public awareness programs there is never anything targeted toward the potential abuser. When I scourer the internet for prevention of child sexual abuse programs, all I see are how children and parents can protect against abuse. But what if we could stop the abuser from even considering abuse. What if they got help on the front end? What if someone was addressing their issues with power and control, attraction to children, and their tendency towards pedophilia?

In the mid ’90s there was a billboard campaign in my town that targeted single moms who were dating. The billboard asks single moms to not leave their children with their boyfriends because they could get abused. The Department of Children and Families services was dealing with a crushing amount of child abuse cases stemming from boyfriends abusing and outright killing children left in their care. However, no one was addressing that these women had no adequate access to childcare and have few childcare options. No one was addressing billboards to the abusive boyfriends. The burden is always on the victimized.

What if the children were not the only reason that abuser was stopped? What if we took on the responsibility as a society and stop potential abusers before their first incidence?

As a child I tried to stop my abuse, but I had no power and no one to turn to, so I thought. Maybe a teacher could have helped me if she had been paying attention. Maybe a family member could have noticed a change in me and intervened. But what if no one ever touched me inappropriately? What if I was never abused? What if someone had seen signs in my abuser and intervened before he struck? What if my neighbor had not been abusing his daughter, so she would not have gone on to abuse me?

The so-called prevention programs are not preventing perpetrators from making the first move. From claiming their first, second, third victim and so on.

I do not have any answers today for you. It is clear no one, including greater minds than myself, has figured this out yet or hopefully they would be doing this type of intervention on potential perpetrators. Some men are socialized to control others and to be sexually dominate and to not value women like they do themselves. This may explain some of the abuse, but this does not let women off the hook who are also abusing. I can attest to that.

So, I recommend:

  • We take the burden off children to stop their own abuse
  • We educate everyone on how to have good boundaries with children
  • We talk about these issues as much with adults as we do with children
  • We bring in at risks folks and work with them to stem the tide of offending
  • Have advertisement campaigns educating the community as a whole
  • We teach everyone the warning signs and equip them the tools they need to intervene

Our children are counting on us. Let us stand Mighty and protect them.

Getty image by raferto

Originally published: March 21, 2022
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