Abuse and Community

When I was a girl, I was hit on by a coach. I recently learned that what happened to me is really common. The coach said he had been fantasizing about me while with his “girlfriend” who was my age (14) and then he paused to see my reaction. This is what child predators do. They see their potential victims and want to test their tolerance for inappropriate behavior. Luckily, I told someone. Luckily, my older friends told me to get off the team. I personally had been flattered by his interest. I thought I was special. This is what makes abusers tick.

Abuse in the community is usually committed by highly gregarious, very likable people, who form relationships with others who have sway in the community so that their “network” goes to bat for them if allegations come up. Kids need to be protected, and so it is important to create a relationship with them in a way that makes them feel safe if they need to bring up abuse. Adults should never be alone in a locked room with a child, and also, I would say, should always have the door ajar. This also protects the adult from ambiguous situations and potential accusations. Furthermore, it can be a training exercise for children, to model what appropriate adult behavior looks like: respectful, clear, transparent, and taking place in the full light of day.

Some men and women are just uncomfortable around kids and are not able to really relate well to them, and so they seem awkward around them. Just because that is the case, doesn’t mean that they are abusers. Some people are just really nice and gregarious people and aren’t abusers.

Some people tend to special needs populations for the profession and therefore do handle ambiguous situations as a part of their job. It is their responsibility, and the adults who work with them, to be very transparent about ambiguous moments (toileting, for example) and to work together as a team for the flourishing of the special needs child.

As adults, we have a responsibility to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to the needs of our children. They need independence and to grow in self-reliance, but they also need our help, and to be given the benefit of the doubt if they speak up against a respected community member. Also, holding trainings about abuse culture helps create an atmosphere of safety and proactivity that can minimize abuse of children in organizations.