You Can Help Prevent Child Abuse and Exploitation
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
Parents work hard to protect their children from harm of any sort. We feed them well, teach them to watch out for vehicles in crosswalks and offer counsel to get them safely through childhood. But what can we do when the danger lurks not in shadowy corners and fast automobiles but in the most trusted place away from home?
We live in a very small community and our local elementary school has about 300 children total, including prekindergarten classes. The walls throughout the school are painted with colorful murals, the library is the heart of the school and every teacher knows every child by name.
Today, one of those beloved teachers is in jail for sexually abusing some of his students and other children, one as young as four years old. He has been charged with nine counts so far and the investigation continues as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Bureau of Investigation interview families and children. These are third grade students, most are eight or nine years old and this pedophile has sent pictures of them across the world. He has been part of an international child pornography ring for years apparently. Officials estimate dozens of victims will now come forward.
This monster has been a teacher for twelve years and had access to thousands of students. Some of his terrible actions occurred in the classroom itself. He made himself a beloved teacher and friend, teaching not only his own class but was involved in the Drama Club, Robotics competition, and other fun activities. He was not called Mr. Brookes but Mr. B. by the children, others teachers and parents alike. (name changed to protect the children)
This fits the textbook example of a career pedophile. They put themselves in the vicinity of children, and then become a friend as well as a teacher, minister, leader, etc. This monster that manifested in our own community befriended students and parents on Facebook and other social media. He went to birthday parties, sporting events and was an upstanding member in church.
They do these things to make children trust them and parents to relax their vigilance. Put simply, they remove a person’s natural instincts then move in for the attack. The victim has been manipulated for a long time and the perpetrator has “groomed” them well so he/she can convince the child to keep the secret.
What can we do to prevent this sort of tragedy from happening in our community, churches, schools, Scouts, sports, and other places and to our own kids? We must educate ourselves to be proactive and not heartsick after the fact.
The internet is a wonderful resource to research and learn about this subject. Many state and federal government agencies offer free online articles and will mail pamphlets upon request. The Darkness to Light agency is one of the best training resources I have ever found. They have trained facilitators who teach groups all over the country. A concerned citizen can locate and schedule a trainer through the website. They come to parents, grandparents, scouts, churches and other groups.
Most, if not all, states have a Prevent Child Abuse agency and they provide counseling and information free of charge to interested parties. Contact your local Department of Social Services to receive contact names and numbers.
On a more personal scale, we can and must initiate changes in the vicinity we have power over. The abuser discussed above committed atrocities within the confines of the school building and the classroom. How was this possible? The classrooms in the school are solid wooden doors and are often closed when teachers need quiet and focused students.
It is my intention to force the county School Board to change out these doors for ones that have a large glass window. The window must never be covered or in any way manipulated to conceal what is happening within. A passerby should be able to see every area of the room within.
Are the doors in your children’s school solid or with a large window? Is the view unobstructed? Check for yourself and be adamant about this safety issue.
Safety Rules To Follow
People with evil intentions are everywhere. They place themselves in a position to be near children. This fact can not be repeated enough.
- Everyone working or volunteering around children must have a background check on file. It is your right as a parent to ask to see these.
- Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have rules that require at least two adults be present at all times. Verify these protections are being followed and challenge the group leader if they are not.
- Church leaders such as Sunday School and nursery workers should be held to the strictest standards of integrity. No one should ever be alone with a child for any reason. Ask the Pastor to insure all persons have been checked out and insist on safety precautions.
- Teach your child that no one is allowed to touch them from the shoulders to the knees. This is their private and personal area and is sacrosanct. Any tickling or contact of any kind even by parents should be outside this area.
- Children should be taught the proper word for their body parts. It is not a woo-woo, a butterfly or a winkie. It is a penis or whatever. Molesters often teach very young children the wrong name for their privates to create confusion.
- Teach children that secrets are dangerous. They are to never hide anything from their parents or guardian. This will help them feel comfortable coming to you if they have been asked to keep inappropriate contact a secret.
- Social media and email providers have minimum age requirements. A person has to be 13 or older to sign up for Facebook, YouTube, Google email and other places on the web, but children as young as 8 or 9 have accounts. Parents must say NO to their child concerning these matters and explain the reason for the rules.
Helpful Links and Resources
- CDC - Injury - Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations Getting Started on P
- National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children
- Stop It Now | Together We Can Prevent the Sexual Abuse of Children
- Stewards of Children Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training-Darkness to Light
Stewards of Children is the only nationally available program scientifically proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child-protective behaviors.
A Drop In The Bucket
These materials, tips and hints are just a drop in the bucket. There are many more resources, actions and accountability charts available to anyone interested in learning more. Every parents, guardian, teacher, worker and concerned person must become involved. We can not depend on someone else to keep our little loved ones safe. Ultimately it is our responsibility and joy to know they keep their innocence for a long, long time. A woman told me only a few weeks ago that she did not need the Darkness to Light training and now she knows that she certainly did. We all do.
In the Holy Bible, Luke 17:1-2 says, "Then said he (Jesus) unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."
Even 2,000 years ago, horrible things were happening and they seem to grow even more incomprehensible every year. Justice will come for those who harm little children. It may not be in our lifetime but God will not forget and His justice is perfect. We can only do our best to keep our babies out of harm's way until that day when the great Creator gathers us all into His loving arms and no more tears are ever shed. Right now I long for today to be that time of fulfillment. As I look upon my own child who was mercifully spared from that monster's evil at school, I weep for the ones who fell prey to the wolf. I pray for their families, their future and that their tiny hearts will be healed and that minds will lose memory of those abuses.
Justice moved swiftly for this man who misused and harmed children in his care. Twenty eight days after his arrest and guilty plea, he was sentenced to 49 1/2 years in prison. Our world is safer. Now we must get the other wolves away from our precious little ones.