I am never out of the fight – Navy Seal motto
My Dad was a generous man. Throughout his life, he gave money and time to causes he believed in. He and my Mom talked ‘til they were blue in the face at call-a-thons, attended tons of fundraisers and even performed dental surgeries on citizens of a remote island of Indonesia. They gave to local, national and international causes, but there was one group they supported above all. Children.
As a teenager, I worked summers in my Dad’s dental office. Every day we walked across the bustling intersection of Wilshire and Vermont to take a lunch break at the “health food” restaurant, which sprinkled sunflower seeds all over my egg salad sandwich and touted the benefits of their gritty bread that tasted like sand. To and from lunch, beggars asking us for change were as much a part of the landscape as the noisy buses and corner Texaco station. We walked past the panhandlers, never breaking our stride. That is, until one day when a bearded man with his hollow-eyed son in tow held up a sign that said: Hungry. My Dad handed him twenty bucks, which seemed like a lot of money to me when I was making only five an hour. “Why him?” I asked.
“Children are innocent,” he said. “They didn’t choose to be where they are. Children haven’t made any poor decisions.”
According to the John Jay Report, 10,667 individuals made allegations of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky, alleged to have molested boys as young as 7, faces 52 counts of child molestation.
This week, the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles has been replaced with new staff in light of investigations into 3 teachers who may have conducted criminal acts against children.
Parents hand over their children to clergy, coaches and teachers expecting they will be in a safe and nurturing environment. ‘Expect’ needs to go out the window. ‘Demand’ is more like it.
Children are delicate buds. Without thorns to protect them, they can’t bloom. Society is reacting to crime instead of preventing it. Making criminals pay does not give innocence and wellbeing back to the victims. Clearly, punishments of jail time and financial penalties do not deter wrongdoers, either (at least not all of them).
The no-brainer here is to stop the problem before it begins. Adults who work with children must be screened and screened again. Anyone with careers around kids should be subject to random checks.
And children must be given better tools to protect themselves. If I could hand each one a German shepherd or Rottweiler puppy at birth, I would. Barring that, I urge parents to be more aware. It’s not easy to really know what’s going on – even in your own home. Lots of us bring work home or work at home. Many of us also shoulder the responsibility of looking after aging parents. We also need time to take care of our own needs and get in exercise, shopping, doctor’s appointments, an episode or two of ‘Game of Thrones.’
As cluttered and hectic as our lives can be, we can’t take our eyes off our children because when something goes wrong, it sure goes wrong fast. The Navy Seal motto has to be the unofficial mother’s motto: I am never out of the fight.
Never. That means openly talking to kids about what could hurt them. These unpleasant, uncomfortable conversations must move beyond the “don’t take candy or rides from strangers” chat. I’m talking about telling kids that their cousin or their teacher or tutor could hurt them. Yes, they’ll be frightened. With luck, they’ll be skittish enough to recognize something wrong if they see it and talk to you about it, and finally to fight against it if possible.
Talking to our kids is crucial, but the dialogue has to spread to extended family and friends. What causes a person to become sexually stimulated by children is not a subject most parents can determine or change. However, parental pressure on schools and religious institutions, on camps and after-school programs will make a positive change. Children are the “clients” and these institutions exist to serve them. Parents have a choice.
If you suspect something is wrong, start screaming. Make the administrators, law enforcement, Child Protection Services hear you. Make them all HEAR you.
Trust no one.
After all, it’s up to parents. Children haven’t made any poor decisions.