One of the most difficult things for a survivor of child sexual abuse to do is tell others about it. Through the Lauren’s Kids foundation, started by my daughter, we encourage victims to share their story on their path to healing. Often, survivors of sex abuse are afraid to tell because they are ashamed, but also because they worry no one will believe them.
When the first of Jerry Sandusky’s victims came forward about his abuse, members of his own community called him a liar, in effect re-victimizing him. He first spoke of the abuse to school personnel who actually told him to think about the allegations he was making. The principal of his Central Mountain High School, Karen Probst, and vice principal Steve Turchetta discouraged the victim’s mother from calling authorities to investigate.
Eventually, the victim was ostracized to the point where he had to transfer schools to get away from the bullying he faced. His classmates, teachers and community all claimed it was his fault that Joe Paterno, Penn State’s football coach, was fired. They labeled him a liar and blamed him for the scandal. Telling a victim that you don’t believe them is the worst thing you can do.
As shown by the treatment of the victims in this trial, America is continually in a state of denial about child sex abuse. The harsh reality is that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. It is estimated that there are over 42 million adult survivors of child sex abuse in the nation. So many victims suffer in silence. These victims need to know that they are not alone. It is easier for us to ignore the past and hope it goes away, but by not talking about it we are perpetuating sex abuse.
It’s time to teach America that it’s OK to talk about it. Victims of child sex abuse have every right to shed the burden they are carrying, and to know that they did nothing wrong – it’s not their fault.
Ninety-five percent of child sex abuse is preventable through awareness education – but people are afraid of it. They are afraid to talk about it and acknowledge that it is a problem. Yet without awareness it will keep happening.
At Central Mountain High School there were no alarms that went off, even as Turchetta told parents of football team members that the alleged abuse would not affect the team. The administration wasn’t trained to understand the signs of sex abuse either. They even facilitated one-on-one contact by letting Sandusky remove his victim from class and even school.
In order to prevent sex abuse from perpetuating, we have to educate people about it. We have to get our communities and families talking about it. The Lauren’s Kids foundation has created the Safer, Smarter Kids kindergarten curriculum that has been implemented in Florida schools. We are arming children with the knowledge to help keep them safe. Our communities need to rise up and be advocates for children by arming themselves with the information that will help combat child sex abuse and one day eliminate it.
-Ron Book, father of child sex abuse survivor Lauren Book