Building strong children

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass

As we’ve shown throughout the month, child abuse and sexual assault can have a lasting negative impact on children. Studies have shown that children exposed to this violence can become vulnerable to experiencing or perpetrating other violence.

To wrap-up Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month, we wanted to highlight a growing awareness campaign started by Prevent Child Abuse America.

The American Tobacco Campus. The tenants, local small businesses, and management partnered with Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina to plant 1,000 pinwheels, the largest pinwheel garden in the state.
-- Courtesy of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina

In many communities across the country, gardens of blue pinwheels have popped up this month. Since 2009, more than 900,000 pinwheels have been displayed across the country as part of Pinwheels for Prevention.

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Guest post: How to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse

By Cary Betagole
Cary is a proud supporter of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while also proliferating information on the need for sexual harassment training in the workplace.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: you receive a phone call from your child’s school or read an alarming story about a sexual predator in the newspaper. Your next question, “could my child be a victim?” would only be justified.

Well, there are certainly steps that any parent or concerned caretaker can make to ensure that the children in their charge have a healthy upbringing. While it’s important to remember that most children experience a childhood free of sexual abuse, it’s essential to remain vigilant so as to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are never harmed by pedophiles.

In celebration of April’s designation as Sexual Assault Awareness Month or SAAM, here are a few tips on how to protect your child, or any child, from sexual abuse.

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Boys, Sexual Assault and Mandated Reporting Update

Back in December we discussed the Penn State scandal and conducted a campaign to raise awareness about the basics of mandated reporting. But what has happened since then? Well, to bring you up to date on those happenings, and support Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month, we’d like to talk about two important issues as a follow up to that campaign.

The first issue is how the country has responded to the Penn State scandal.

You can check out the National Conference of State Legislatures’ comprehensive overview of the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting State Statutes. Click here to see the chart which outlines several of the steps in reporting child abuse and neglect. It also links to full summaries of each state’s law on the issue.

Since the scandal unfolded you can now view updates on these state statutes.  Approximately 98 bills in 29 states and the District of Columbia have been introduced in the 2012 legislative session on the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. Five states have enacted legislation.

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London blogger gets survivors talking with #ididnotreport

By London Feminist blogger Julian
Julian is a London blogger who describes herself as a “lawyer, an armchair politician, activist, wannabe writer… [and] a member of London Feminist Network [and] the UK Legal Feminist Group.”

Last month, I began an impromptu campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #ididnotreport.  It arose after I blogged about the Mumsnet campaign “We Believe You,” which focuses on the response of blanket disbelief to reports of rape and sexual assault.  I’d also seen a recent opinion piece in a newspaper about street harassment, which also touched on lack of belief as a reason not to report assaults.

There have been over 20,000 tweets using that hashtag.  I had imagined a few women joining in to share experiences of street harassment, but what I saw instead was an outpouring of accounts ranging from low-level harassment to vicious rapes, from a huge variety of people – female, male, old, young, of all backgrounds.  Perhaps the most striking, and certainly the most shocking, were those which detailed child sexual abuse:

#ididnotreport being sexually assaulted as a 12year old because I didn’t know it was an option. A year later, he raped my friend.

[Same poster] That was reported. She was blamed & social workers told her she’d be sent away to a children’s home if she prosecuted. #ididnotreport

#ididnotreport because I was a child and I didn’t understand that I had no reason to be ashamed.

#ididnotreport because who would I report to? It’s hard when you’re 11 and you know you’ll never escape and no one is on your side.

#ididnotreport because I wanted to protect my family. The ones who shouldve been protecting me. I was a child.

#ididnotreport because I didn’t know it was rape. And because I was 14.

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Guest post: Will it ever end?

By David Washington
Washington is a survivor of sexual abuse and has spoken about his experience on Capitol Hill

I was looking through the articles on MSN.com today and again I see another article about a young man being sexually abused.  This time the article talks about foreign exchange students being abused by their host family.  My head spins when I read these stories and I’ve seen them, it seems, on an almost weekly basis over the course of the past year. 

My heart and head have these mixed messages.  Part of me is glad that we – survivors of childhood sexual abuse – are no longer being silent about the pain we endured, and angry that it continues to happen. 

Then there is this voice that is deep in the back of my head saying, “Ssssssh, they will find out about you too!”  It’s a lot quieter then it use to be.  I then ask my spiritual, loving self if it will ever end…that part of me that feels guilt, remorse, less than and shame when it comes to the abuse I went through as a young child, starting in the second grade.

In the second grade, I remember watching The Wizard of Oz and wishing that a tornado would come and carry me away somewhere.  I would spin around in the backyard with the hopes that I would shoot off into space to that place where I would be safe, not picked on.  I wouldn’t be scared of the weather, that if it snowed the predator would have access to me and would be able to come over whenever he wanted to.  I could not understand why The Wizard – God – would not grant me this one wish.

After a few years I decided that I could take the trip on my own, just take this bottle of pills. It’s got to be better than what I’m going through here and better then the eighth grade.  But I woke up that next day, and no one ever knew what I had done and the shame became even greater.

The next year, ninth grade, I turned to alcohol as a way out. No escape there either. Fast forward four years and I’m being asked to leave college and end up homeless on the street of Washington DC.  No one has figured out to ask me what happened. They – my teachers, fellow students, and my father – were more concerned with why I was acting the way I was.  I had no answer. My mind didn’t have the ability to produce the words to express what was occurring in my head. Also, in my mind, it couldn’t be the abuse. I’m a man and men don’t get abused, right?  I have to “man up.”

Then it happened. The tornado arrived and I didn’t even see it coming.  I had to stop using substances.  Faced with medical consequences, the doctors agreed I would fare better if I stayed off substances, and alcohol is a substance.  I could say a lot about that statement, but I’ll move on.

Once off substances and after six months clean with a sponsor, working the steps, having a homegroup and being of service (just about everything that is suggested to a newcomer in a 12-Step program)  my conscious mind went to battle with the suppressed memories.  It seemed I could no longer attempt to escape my feelings or my thoughts about what had happened in my childhood.  Those old suicidal thoughts started to come up again on a daily basis, but this time there was also anger, a need for restorative justice! Something in me was ready for the fight. 

I threatened to leave my job at this point and my supervisor suggested I look at getting some professional help before I leave employment. Somebody was looking out for me.  I often wonder what would have happened if my supervisor would have just said, “then just give me your written notice.”

Once in treatment for what I thought was going to be substance abuse, the treatment center wondered why I was seeking treatment if I had six months clean. However, the staff found out I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The secret I didn’t what anyone to know -and to this day, I don’t know how they knew – was out!

I’m now in the belly of the storm.  I fought accepting that I was, in fact, a male survivor of childhood rape and sexual abuse and that it had affected my spirit.  I see now that the tornado was setting me down in a very safe place – my soul.

That storm carried me to a safe place and took me on a  journey beyond my wildest dreams. I could never have imaged living past the age of 25, but I’ll be 47 in a couple of weeks…that I could have people in my life that don’t ask anything of me but to live my life and enjoy it…to have had the opportunity to travel to foreign countries to share the message of recovery from active addiction…and to have the opportunity to be free of attachments.  

One day there may be a headline on MSN.com about boys and men recovering from childhood violence 5, 10, 15 years post incident.  That will be the day. Until then, I’m going to keep asking, “Will it ever end?” I am going to talk about recovery from abuse to anyone that is willing to listen.

That inner child voice is screaming, “Can you hear me?” And it seems the world is now saying, “Yes, we can.”

Abuse, Sexual Assault, and Child Trafficking

A few months ago Safe Start Center highlighted Human Trafficking Awareness Day and in support of National Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month we’d like to provide an update on what the government has been up to in addressing the problem. Human Trafficking is a massive issue that exposes over a million children annually to sexual violence and abuse both in the US and abroad. It is an important focus of this awareness month because the biggest majority of trafficked children, both boys and girls, are those that have been abused and neglected and are those most likely to be exposed to violence and multiple victimizations in the future. You can learn more about the growing problem of the commercial sexual exploitation of children by checking out the KNOW THE FACTS fact sheet.

“The Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that each year at least 300,000 children are the human products meeting the demand of the sex trafficking industry in the U.S. alone. Around the world, more than one million children are subjected to human trafficking for sex or porn. The industry is estimated to bring in $9.5 billion annually.”

So what is being done in the US to stop it?

President Obama recently addressed a Human Trafficking Task Force Meeting at the White House where he reiterated that he is “confident that we will one day end the scourge of modern slavery.”

And the Administration really has made great efforts towards increasing government efforts to build partnerships with communities and NGOs to seriously combat domestic trafficking. In addition, on the international front, the State Department has made the fight against modern slavery a part of its diplomatic engagement and their work has made real advances in fighting trafficking in almost 40 countries!

Two of the most recent examples of how US agencies are working together to stop trafficking are:

  1. The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Lightning Initiative “which provides U.S. commercial airlines that operate U.S.-bound international routes and their employees a voluntary mechanism to identify potential human trafficking victims and to notify federal authorities.”
  1. The U.S. Department of Transportation is working to “insure that the U.S. transportation system is not an enabler for human trafficking, [so] the Department of Transportation is operating an awareness campaign aimed at commercial truck drivers as well as personnel working at the nation’s railroads, according to John Porcari, deputy secretary of transportation.” Read more here.

You can check out the entire comprehensive list of the Obama Administration Accomplishments on Combating Trafficking in Persons as of February 2012 here.

So, as we continue to raise awareness this month and share the great progress being made to combat both abuse and sexual assault, it’s important we remember that the fight must continue to break the cycle and prevent and protect children and families from exposure.

Sexual assault and children

As well as April being designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month, it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This week we’re going to take a look at both and the impact this type of exposure can have on children.

For many reasons, including the shame associated with disclosing sexual abuse, professionals believe it’s hard to estimate just how many children are abused sexually each year.

The National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence (NatSCEV) takes a deeper look at different types of victimization experiences including sexual contact or fondling by an adult the child knew, sexual contact or fondling by an adult stranger, sexual contact or fondling by another child or teenager, attempted or completed intercourse, exposure or “flashing,” sexual harassment, and consensual sexual conduct with an adult.

NatSCEV  found that 6.1 percent of more than 2,000 children surveyed had been sexually victimized in the past year and nearly 10 percent over their lifetimes.

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