By Bob Sullivan
If we compare the average youth today to the average youth in 1960, we would notice that today’s youth are spending much more time in daycare, school, school sports and extracurricular activities, club sports, tournaments, dance, piano and other types of lessons, camps, clinics, recitals, etc... Matthew Kelly asks us if we are parents or chauffeurs.
When we add technology into the life of our youth, it can cause an almost total replacement of both parents and friendships because the other interests and activities of the youth typically do not shrink to allow screen time. Interaction with family and friends inevitably shrinks.
But in this particular column, I’m not going to focus on technology and media, I’m going to focus on the people who surround our children when they are at all these events and activities. Thankfully, the vast majority of people who are coaching, instructing and chaperoning our kids are looking out for our child’s best interests. In fact, most of them are concerned parents themselves. As with educators, priests and others who work with kids, the predators are rare, but the pool of potential victims is enormous.
Predators like Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky were widely respected as men who worked with children. Their credibility allowed them extensive access to children and the few people who complained about them found their complaints ignored because of the esteem with which these men were held. Victim advocates and the victims themselves tell us that predators often position themselves to work with young children. Youth leagues and clubs can provide this opportunity with much less oversight and supervision than more structured settings.
I am not aware of a comprehensive study regarding sexual abuse in youth sports and activities. Experts tell us that 25% of girls and 16% of boys suffer some sort of sexual abuse by the time they are 18 years old.
With tragic cases of abuse of children by doctors and coaches involved in youth sports, and the increase in time our children are spending at these activities, we need to be more vigilant with regard to the protection of our children.
The best way to protect your children is to keep them close. You could do this by coaching or assistant coaching, but does any parent have time to coach every activity in which their child is engaged? I doubt it. And how many teams and activities could function with every parent acting in some sort of leadership role?
You cannot assure your child’s safety merely by sitting in the bleachers either. Maybe this is just one more reason to avoid enrolling them in activities 12 months out of the year.
Being attentive is the bare minimum. Those involved in protecting children believe that sexual molestation generally begins with inappropriate boundary invasions, followed by sexual grooming, followed by sexual molestation. Often the predator seeks out a child who appears to have low self-esteem or the child of parents who are not involved in the child’s life. The predator places himself or herself in a situation where they are like a peer to the child.
Desensitization to touch is initially done through innocent games and seeming coincidences. It can also take place under the guise that the coach or the trainer is simply helping the child recover from an injury. If a child reacts strongly against the initial attempts of grooming, the predator will likely abandon the effort and seek out an alternate victim.
The predator works hard to gain the trust of the child, and others around the child. Trust causes people to give the predator the benefit of the doubt. In the end, the predator tries to make the child believe that the child is responsible for the molestation. Shame, fear and confusion aids the necessary secrecy. To learn more about the protection of children who are involved in youth sports, you can refer to articles such as the Jan. 6 article, “Combating Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports” by Dr. Frank Smoll.
Sadly, there are some who wish to normalize pedophilia in the same way our culture has normalized homosexual behavior. If same-sex attraction is a legitimate sexual preference, they argue that pedophilia is as well. The American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders years ago and they tried to do the same five years ago with pedophilia. They quickly reversed their reclassification of pedophilia after receiving numerous complaints.
Regardless, there are websites and advocacy groups for “virtuous pedophiles” which claim that pedophilia is normal and that non-pedophiles are simply unfairly prejudiced against pedophiles.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20
Can we reverse the trend instead of simply watching for symptoms? I think we can.There is one common thread which seems to be part of almost every child molestation case: pornography. The vast growth and reach of pornography is something few people wish to talk about. Maybe this is due to shame, ignorance, fear, or even its normalization in society (I bet it has a lot to do with money, too). Pornography has become an enormous industry, and it permeates the internet. Hugh Heffner’s life was remembered with as much nostalgia as it was remorse. If Americans can kick the pornography habit, everyone will benefit, especially the family.
As we continue to ignore the effects pornography has on the human brain, children will increasingly become viable targets for people who have had their brains rewired by its degradation of the human person.