A woman with three young children got a divorce from her first husband. Over time, she found a nice man who was great with her kids. A few years later, the oldest daughter told her mom that her stepdad had been taking naked pictures of her since the beginning.
This tragic true story happened in sleepy, small-town USA. The judicial system there failed to fully punish the man and set up future protection for the children. Thankfully, the mother was able to remove her family from the dangerous household before the perv progressed with his evil plan.
More close to home, actually in my own apartment complex, a kid was approached by a man driving a white van. The perv tried to lure him closer by using puppies. The smart kid ran away and told an adult. The cops came, set up undercover agents, but the bad guy was never caught.
We found out about this from the evening news. We didn’t receive one call, email or door-hanger from apartment management alerting us to these abduction attempts.
Although these two real-life examples end with the kids escaping further harm, heartbreaking stories about child sexual abuse are easily found in the news and online.
Most recently, the Sandusky trial has many people writing about institutional failure, Penn State’s leadership denial and a “corporate” cover-up to protect a beloved football program. These factors granted Sandusky continued access leading to continued abuse and more shattered lives.
One of the key characters in this saga was silence. Silence is the Petri dish that perverted predator scum thrive in. You see, sexual predators need silence because it gives them the secret environment they need for their secret evil.
(The secret silence at Penn State leaves us all wondering…if only the janitors or Joe Paterno would’ve called the cops instead of protecting the pigskin or their paychecks.)
A trend I see in child sex abuse cases is that perpetrators are chameleons. They can be successful businessmen, church leaders, camp counselors, teachers, neighbors and family. In fact, more than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way. (Sources here and here).
Michael Reagan, in this news interview, talked about his abuser…
My parents were divorced, and I lived with my mom, actress Jane Wyman. After school, I attended a day camp program run by a man named Don Havlik. Like most molesters, Don had a natural rapport with kids and parents. He used his charm to steal what he wanted—the innocence of children.
As a dad of two young daughters – 3-years-old and 5 months — and an uncle to many wonderful kids, this means I need to remain vigilant and continue learning about ways to protect my children. I want to do what I can on the preventative side to create a safe environment and reduce the likelihood of abuse of those I dearly love.
One of those things I can do is to simply be present. Many of children being targeted by predators come from homes where the child’s father is absent. (I’ll be writing more about the power of presence later.)
The second thing I can do is learn. “Learning to lead” is the name of this blog for a reason. Parenting isn’t a passive activity, and protecting your children shouldn’t be a reactive response either. Get out in front of potential issues by increasing your understanding about life.
Today is a great day to start. Here are a few places to help you along…
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Here’s what they say you can do to protect your children.
- A few clues as to what to look for in potential abusers here.
- Everyday actions to keep kids safe.
- State-by-state breakdown on child abuse statistics.