I am so grateful a conversation is happening around sex abuse. And distressed at the same time. This morning some of the parents of the gymnasts abused by Nassar were transparent in their reactions. The moderator asked the parents what could be done to prevent such sex abuse. Hearing their responses tells me we have much work to do to shift that conversation!
Prevention means we stop it BEFORE that first touch or inappropriate comment. The current strategies we have are NOT prevention. For example, I heard these suggestions:
· Teach my daughter not to trust anyone. Do we really want to create a world in which we see all people as destructive and suspicious? That may keep your daughter safer, but not really. It means she loses the ability to connect with others, denying a core need that makes her vulnerable in other ways.
· "Teach my daughter to say, “I’m uncomfortable with that.” By that time the damage is done. The touch has happened, the suggestion made or the joke told.
· "Hold the perpetrator accountable; then it will not happen again." Yes, if we remove the perpetrator from that location, it will stop there. It will not however, prevent him from finding his next source for molesting a child. Counting on laws or consequences to stop such a crime is ludicrous. Such an external control is over-ridden every day. The father or mother, sister or brother molesting in the home is not deterred by “accountability.”
Did you catch that these approaches are about managing sex abuse – and dependent once again on the victim being the one to control it? Even the last suggestion requires that the victim say something.
Prevention means we stop it in the first place! We have to shift to look at the core reasons sex abuse happens. We can start by addressing the mindsets in culture that:
· Treat children as possessions and women as objects.
· Raise boys without emotions and lack of respect for women.
· Excuse violence as something that happens.
· Keep women the gatekeepers of all things sexual.
That would be primary prevention!
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