“The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.” – The Freeh Report p 14
If you are interested in my thoughts on how the culture of Penn State enabled this tragedy, and is the embodiment of institutional idolatry, come back on Monday. I realized that if that is all I had to say, I too, would be ignoring the victims of child abuse. People come first, so let me share what I have learned about child predators. Kudos to those news reports that have included experts on child abuse, who have taught me that this is no longer an issue of laws, it is an issue of awareness.
“The overwhelming majority of child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know and trust, someone most parents would never suspect.”
For those who prefer statistics, according to the American Psychological association, 60% of perpetrators are known the the parents, 30% are relatives of the child, and just 10% are strangers. This particularly hits home for me. I met a family friend’s husband at a wedding and later learned that he was sexually abusing their children. His own children. I met him and never in a million years would have guessed. And she didn’t figure it out for years.
So wearing my business, problem solving hat, if 60% of the problem comes from known, trusted people, how to we as a society solve the problem?
I think a model system is the Safe Haven program, designed by the The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). The Safe Haven program was designed to “prevent opportunities for abuse to occur while minimizing opportunities for volunteers to be misunderstood or falsely accused. The guidelines hold coaches responsible for all players, for maintaining supervision protocols, and maintaining appropriate adult/child boundaries.”
Here are the three rules I learned in Safe Haven training as a coach for my daughters’ soccer teams.
- A coach is never alone with a child, ever.
- A coach never touches a child, ever.
- For girls teams, at least one adult woman must be present at every practice. And if no woman is available, the practice is canceled. In San Carlos, where I live, my town, this is taken very seriously. Once when I was an assistant coach, the head coach spent the first 15 minutes of practice calling moms until he found one to come to the field.
What to do if you come across the unthinkable?
- Have questions about the signs of child abuse.
- Need to find out how to report known or suspected abuse.
- Have questions about the reporting process and what you might expect through the process.
- Want a referral to an agency, counseling or other services near where you live.
- Need help and want to talk to a counselor.
- Are in physical or emotional crisis and need support and encouragement
- Connect you to the best possible resources in your area.