Every Ten Seconds
By Stephanie March
Every ten seconds in America a child is abused or raped. One in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of seventeen. These statistics are not easy to stomach let alone wrap our minds around. The sheer magnitude of the number of children that have been harmed and will be harmed is shocking and difficult to think about. And that’s exactly why we must.
People that abuse children are often people that the child knows and loves. In order for the statistics to change we must continue to raise awareness and educate society about this uncomfortable topic.
The shame in discussing child abuse is completely misplaced. The victim and survivor should feel no shame, they did nothing wrong. When survivors come forward their brave words should be met with nothing but encouragement, reassurance, and above all else belief.
All shame should be placed where it belongs: solely on the shoulders of the abuser.
Sadly, this is often not the case. Children and adult survivors of child abuse are often met with anger, contempt, and disbelief. Nobody wants to think that a family member, trusted friend, priest or minister could be capable of such atrocities. Nobody wants to admit that they perhaps missed the warning signs that could have stopped the abuse from happening or continuing.
So the blame is shifted to the one person that deserves it the least: the child that survived.
Child abuse and rape are commonly referred to as crimes of power and control. The perpetrator is seeking power over the innocent and unsuspecting victims that trusts them. This type of power, when wielded by a trusted adult, is called legitimate power. A study provided by Norwich University explains this type of power further: “An individual possesses legitimate power to the extent that others believe that person has the right to wield influence over others. This may occur because that person holds a specific social role that commands respect or authority, or because others feel a certain obligation to defer to that individual”.
Children are taught to trust the adults in their family and churches. They feel obligated to obey them and this is the very thing that is manipulated against them by child abusers. The same study elaborates that “Parents typically have legitimate power with respect to their children, as do priests or ministers with respect to members of their congregations”. Priests and ministers wield a special form of power over children due to their God-like stature in the community and general adoration by church members.
This adoration and stature can make the child even more hesitant to come forward because of the very real fear that they won’t be believed.
That is why it is crucial that we become aware of the warning signs that a child or adolescent could possibly display when being abused. Everyone should learn these, not just parents. Anyone that knows a child needs to know the following potential warning signs:
This is not a “their problem”, it is our problem. And it’s a problem that’s not going away. So let’s keep making people uncomfortable with the truth and keep the discussion going. There are children out there running out of time and I was one of them.