At GET DOWN, where we seek to empower youths with information to enable them to make better decisions about their sexual behavior, it begs the question: What if the power to make decisions about their own bodies is taken away? And, by an adult authority figure who they trust no less? What then? In a series of blogs, we will take a closer look at the recent spate of scandals and the deeper issue of protecting our boys.
In the past year, the Bishop Eddie Long lawsuits, Penn State’s Sandusky, Syracuse’s Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Fine and the long ago hushed up Boston Red Sox Fitzpatrick sex abuse scandal all captured the headlines. The same issues have put the Catholic church under the microscope for years. Enough! As a father of two young boys, it’s my job to protect them, sometimes from the same authority figures I’ve entrusted their safety to, even if for a few hours a day.
Jerry Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator for Penn State’s Division I college football program, was recently indicted by a grand jury of on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. This on the heels of a three-year investigation that alleges Sandusky used his Second Mile youth charity as a means of finding future victims. Two witnesses, including now assistant coach Mike McQueary (put on administrative leave), stated that he witnessed an abusive incidents, where Sandusky was allegedly raping a boy on the property of Penn State. To me, Sandusky misused his influence, power & authority to sexually abuse and prey on several young boys. The amount of people impacted by his abuse of power and his unhealthy behaviors is proof enough that there was and is a serious problem —that a number of people who worked with him and were in authority to make some real changes and protect the innocent failed to do so.
As a clinical professional it's my job to develop healthy and productive relationships, inform students and adult educators, and be an advocate and ready to listen and help when needed. It is often difficult for young people to come forward and or to be believed, especially males. When a victim feels safe and secure to share the problem then they will. I tell students and staff a like that the problem can get solved in the healthiest least harmful way when the victim of the abuse, crime, violence feels safe enough to tell people he/she trusts. The earlier, the better.
So what can we do as a community? In my professional experience as a social worker, first the victim is supported and encouraged to take their power back from the perpetrator and reduce emotional, mental, and physical harm to him or herself. Second, the community needs to be proactive and have resources and education about abuse of power built into every educational setting at both the parental level and that of youths. Third, teach young people not to keep it a secret. Telling a third party in a position to help. Empower them with information on where to go and who to call. There are organizations like Joe Torre Safe-At-Home Foundation, Safe Horizon and others. When a perpetrator commits abuse, he or she (and sometimes more than one person) is abusing their power and is using unhealthy control over you. By keeping what happened a secret it makes it easier for them to do it again to you and or others. By communicating right away you can help yourself be safe and you can help them stop being unhealthy & abusive.
There are a few ways to communicate what’s going on with a young person. They are writing, talking and if the age of the victim deems appropriate, drawing. Here are some questions that are typically asked and points shared by an expert in sexual abuse cases:
Was this the first time you are touched in an uncomfortable, intimate, or sexual way? When you feel uncomfortable about your relationship with an adult or older person please let them know right away you do not want to participate. Second, by all means if you feel uncomfortable don't go or be near them. Don't be left alone with this person ever. You have to tell someone.
Write down or document when the problem started or when it happened. Do that right away. If there's any talk using technology (chat rooms, social networks, cell phone records, emails, text messages), that could be evidence or proof of he/she preying on, keep it. This can be strong proof and it will help the person or organization who is a position to help know the details of the problem.
Are you having confusing feelings about an uncomfortable experience and are not sure if you are being preyed on? If you are having confusing feelings, and are not sure if someone is being inappropriate, talk to someone who is an expert on it. Ensure that is someone neutral and the discussion should happen within a safe, professional environment.
What is a “Neutral” person? Someone who is trained to hear what you are saying without any bias. This person is an advocate for you. This advocate can help you talk to your parents and get the help you need. It can be difficult for parents to hear this; especially if it is someone they know or a member of the family. This is why a neutral trained person is the best help.
Can you speak with a doctor or nurse first? When you are sick you go to the doctor or the nurse, right? Ask that person what resources they have. They can help refer to to the right person or organization that can help.
What can parents do? Our job is to learn about the world we live in and help empower them to get through the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more we are informed the more they are. The truth can be difficult, especially if the abuse exists within one’s own family. Sometimes a neutral party or person can help advocate for you and your child. Parents and guardians needed a support system also. If you are the parent of am abuse victim, there are resources for you also.
Even a strong bond of trust between you and your child can be broken when a crisis or trauma happens so seek a support system, group or form of therapy that works best for you. Being strong requires getting through it to survive instead of being the victim. Breaking the code of silence that protects abuse of power or evil is good and right. Breaking the code of silence requires brave and wise people who want safety for all!
Abuse of power and unhealthy behaviors is part of the human experience it won't be solved or changed until we all get informed and get educated and become pro-active and healthier.
I recommend the following websites for more info:
GET DOWN Blogger, Parent and Life Student
MSW at Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation & WJCS