In the most recent issue of Harper's Magazine in an article entitled ‘Sliver of Sky', the author Barry Lopez describes his emotional journey as an adult confronting the years of sexual abuse he endured as a child. Like all protective parents, reading about his experience was both sickening and illuminating into the behaviors of pedophiles. While most of us have been recently exposed to the high-profile conviction of Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky after years of sexually abusing young children, it is still remarkable what completely unlikely suspects many pedophiles are to the community at large. It is very hard to fathom that their persona, and their hard work to become outstanding community members is part of an elaborate cover-up scheme to facilitate their access to and their sexual abuse of children.
Mr. Lopez takes us inside his experience as a young child trying to make sense of the actions of his abuser, someone who had sought and gained the trust of his mother. This person was a well-respected doctor in good standing in the community, who had previous convictions and jail times in other places but had remained undetected in 1950's Los Angeles. The doctor preyed on both his and his mother's vulnerability and need as a single-parent family. Kind, generous and solicitous on the surface, he was tormentingly abusive in his interactions with Mr. Lopez.
While no parent can protect their child from harm at all times, there are things you can do to educate your children about what is and isn't ok. Teach them the proper names for the parts of their body. This prevents shame developing about their sexual organs, and decreases the likelihood of secret keeping or confusion if something happens that they should report. Teach them about safe touch and unsafe touch, and most importantly, that their body belongs to them. Teach them how to say ‘no' to an adult if they don't feel comfortable with how they are being touched or treated. As parents, get to know the adults in your children's lives beyond what people present on the surface. That doesn't mean suspecting people just because they are friendly and kind, but trusting your gut and taking the extra step with adults who are more involved in your children's lives. Disturbingly, one in three girls and one in seven boys are the victims of abuse. Take the above steps, and use some of the great resources out there to get more information.