Talking About Child Sexual Abuse
No one likes to talk about child sexual abuse. But protecting children makes that conversation critical. When we look into the face of a child we love, we see the wonder, trust, and innocence that makes us want to protect the child unconditionally. Child sexual abuse, therefore, is an impossibly challenging topic that reveals sides of human nature that are hard to acknowledge and pathologies that are difficult to understand.
Child sexual abuse happens across all ethnic, racial, religious, cultural, and socio-economic boundaries. Millions of children in every community suffer abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Sexual violence against children and youth is a reality and thrives in an environment of silence, secrecy and stigma. To protect children, we must have these conversations both individually and within all organizations that serve youth.
Bringing Youth-Serving Organizations to the Conversation
Our work begins with shining a light on child sexual abuse—recognizing that it exists, can take place anywhere under a certain set of conditions, and that it can be prevented. And we acknowledge that youth-serving organizations (YSOs) like yours, which nurture the development of 1.4 million of the Commonwealth’s youth, have a vital role to play in its prevention. From town sports leagues to faith-based programs, you share a common desire to teach, mentor, train, and inspire children—safely. Unfortunately, YSOs like yours can be an access point for individuals who wish to harm children, and who manage to bypass the safeguards in place.
The Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse has worked to reveal how this happens, the conditions and circumstances that enable it, and the challenges that organizations face in preventing child sexual abuse. We have used this work to develop a set of strategies, guidelines and tools that can address these conditions within YSOs. Our prevention framework seeks to raise public awareness while offering education and training, a prevention toolbox, and strength-based models and strategies to detect and prevent abusive behavior in the organizations that serve Massachusetts’ children.
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