Let's talk about what happened last week, with the case of Larry Nassar. What can we take away from this experience? What did you learn? What can you do to ensure something like this does not happen in your community?
The sad part about Larry Nassar is that this is not an isolated event. The circumstance and the people that played a role in the abuse over such a long period of time shows that where there are children, where there is prestige, and where someone is placed in authority over children and their success, there is abuse. There are people in power all over our country and even your community that are abusing children at the rate that he did. How do we know? The statistics tell us this. https://www.d2l.org/the-issue/statistics/
Let's sum up the events.
After one week of deliberation and hearing survivor testimonies, Larry Nassar, the former USA sports physician treating America's top female Olympic gymnasts, was sentenced to 175 years in prison for over two decades of sexually abusing over 150 women and girls.
The highlight of the week was the powerful support the judge Rosemarie Aquilina showed to each of the victims that chose to step forward and share their story in a public way. The judge has received criticism from the legal community for stepping in the role of an advocate when her role is a judge, but as a survivor I can only imagine the powerful impact her voice and actions had on the victims. After each of them spoke, she thanked them for their courage and strength and invited them to see that this was just the beginning of them living a strong empowered life, that their past does not have to define them, and that their story is just beginning. They are not victims but survivors. The person that hurt them is going to remain locked behind bars for the rest of his life but that their life was just starting and full of possibility and hope.
I have heard outrage and confusion in the media and from my community. How could this possibly have happened? Someone must have known! Why did these girls not tell anyone?
This case is not an isolated event. If you have looked at the statistics then you can see that 90% of children are abused by someone they know and trust, and most victims never tell anyone. This puts the responsibility of keeping kids safe on adults. On all of us. As responsible caring parents and adults, we need to understand and actively practice the steps we can to minimize the risk and educate other adults in our community to join us to create a safer and more aware community for all children and the loving adults that care and work with our kids.
Most parents don't want to consider the possibility that something like this could happen to their child. But only by talking to our children age appropriately about private parts, safe touch, secrets, and boundaries, do we give our kids the knowledge and the practice to communicate in a direct way to safe people if someone does something to them that is outside of what you have taught and modeled to them.
Open conversation does not scare your child. It actually gives you child comfort, safety and they feel closer to you. When you show them how to talk openly about anything or anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable, you are helping them to learn to trust themselves, better navigate boundaries, and speak up and ask for help if they need it.
Children struggle because they are getting bombarded with very confusing messages from the media and sometimes their peers. You, as their caregiver, need to be their go-to person. But they might think you are uncomfortable talking about it if you don't start the conversation first.
So how can this happen? How can we step up and do our part to ensure the safety of our children and our communities? I would like to offer the 5 steps that I have been teaching on behalf of Darkness to Light for almost 15 years now. https://www.d2l.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/5-Steps-to-Protecting-Our-Kids-2017.pdf
Steps to Protecting Our Kids -
Step 1: Learn the Facts
Step 2: Minimize Opportunity
Step 3:Talk About It
Step 4: Recognize the Signs
Step 5: React Responsibly
If, after reading through the steps, you are still uncomfortable or uncertain about how you would start to talk about this with others, you can take the Darkness to Light Steward of Children Child Sexual Abuse Prevention training. It is a 2 hour class, either online or in person. https://www.d2l.org/education/stewards-of-children/ What this class will do is teach you the steps and give you the language and questions that you can use as you start to talk to others in your community about children's safety. It also gives you suggestions that you can take to your school or youth serving organization to better protect the kids there.
The last piece of advice I want to offer and suggest to you is to remember that how we respond to these cases in the media is important. Chances are that there are adults or children around you that have not disclosed abuse. Your disbelief and doubt that this could happen can further silence people around you, even children, that perhaps are waiting for the right time to ask for help.
I want to encourage all of us to use this opportunity to educate ourselves and others. We do that by becoming informed and learn what steps we can take and at the same time, we are opening the door for victims to feel safe to come forward to ask for help if they have doubt of not being believed.
Surviving abuse is not the hardest part. Not being able to talk about it and get the help we need to start our healing journey after the abuse is the hardest part. That is the deepest source of pain for most survivors. To not to be believed, not feel heard, and not have a safe place to tell the truth.
So as hard as these news have been on all of us, and I know many survivors that are feeling very overwhelmed by all of it, we can and I hope that we each choose to do something that creates movement and change in our lives. Something that gives us power. Education, knowledge, and support is what brings us together and we are then more likely to take courageous action.
Child sexual abuse thrives in silence and secrecy. It also thrives in fear. We don't have to live in fear anymore. We can learn. We can change. We can choose what gives us the courage to change.
Please use your power to create change. For you. For the survivors. For all of us. Together we can stop the cycle of abuse in our communities.
If you want to read more about the Larry Nassar story, use the links below:
Want to make sure your kids are safe? Want to educate your community about child sexual abuse prevention? Not sure where to start? Don’t worry. I can help! Just follow (this link) or call 619-889-6366 to reserve a one-hour session with me ($100). Let me help you with the next step to increase safety for your family & make a difference in your community now. Reserve your spot NOW!