Abuse Cover-Up Scandals – Learning From The Mistakes Of Others
The recent molestation cover up scandals which rocked the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America resulted from the desire to deal with pedophiles “internally” to avoid scandal, prevent people losing faith in G-d, and protect the identity of victims and their families. The Church learned that it was not the actual molestation by priests that was the catalyst for many followers to leave the fold. Rather, it was the molestation coupled with the cover-ups which turned people off. Allowing pedophile priests to go unreported, and moving them from parish to parish where they still had contact with vulnerable children, was unforgivable and sacrilegious. It was also expensive and cost the Catholic Church more than $2.6 billion in abuse-related costs.
A similar abuse cover-up scandal recently hit the Boy Scouts of America — the respected long standing club founded in 1910 — where every Scout takes an oath to be faithful, trustworthy, loyal, kind, brave and courteous. The Boy Scouts of America is so venerated that for the past 100 years, every President of the United States has been its honorary president. Nevertheless, last year an Oregon jury awarded former boy scout Kerry Lewis $18.5 million for the years of abuse by his scout leader, Timur Dykes, in the 1980’s. This is one of the largest punitive damages award to a single plaintiff in a child abuse case in the United States. Ironically, the Boy Scouts of America, an American hallmark organization, founded to teach moral values has evolved into a large corporation with a huge portfolio of assets and property, lost touch with its original purpose and has settled 60 similar abuse cases.
While the media were inundating the public with revelations of abuse cover up, the American public was hurting and in need of guidance. Oprah Winfrey, the popular talk-show host, stepped up to the plate and interviewed over 200 adult men who were child molestation victims. She advised people on where to turn for help and also featured a program of confessed molesters who shared their experiences. Mr. Lanning explained that Winfrey exonerated victims because they were young and innocent at the time of molestation. However, there are other victims to exonerate, such as those who were older, and may have consented to and even enjoyed the molestation. These victims still harbor guilt and shame and need reassurance that they too are innocent and blameless. The following is a summary of information culled from my extensive research and experience counseling youth in our community.
Key Elements Parents Should Know About Child Molestation
Stranger Danger Myth
The majority of molesters know their victims; they are called “Acquaintance Molesters.” They are one of us, look like us, do not have “bad” character traits and are generally known as “nice.” These molesters have always existed, but society, organizations and the criminal justice system have been hesitant to accept this reality.
Grooming Process to Seduce the Child
Targeting the Victim – Offenders look for vulnerable children with emotional needs and low self-esteem. Children from dysfunctional families or with learning disabilities are prime targets. Gaining Victims and Victim’s Parents’ trust – The offender earns the trust of the child and his parents by observing and compiling information about the child and his needs without raising suspicion.
Filling a Need – As the offender begins to fill the child’s needs, often showering the child with attention, gifts and affection, he becomes increasingly important in the child’s life. Isolating the Child – Offender creates situations to be alone with the child, such as babysitting, tutoring, mentoring, coaching and creating a “special” relationship.
Making the Relationship Physical – Offender desensitizes the child through various physical activities, such as playing games or swimming, and then exploits the child’s natural curiosity. Maintaining Control – Once the abuse occurs, offenders use secrecy and blame to maintain the child’s continued participation and silence. The child becomes entangled, confused and dependent on the offender.
How Parents Can Protect Their Children
Communication – Parents should communicate with their children in open, non-frightening discussions and explain that no one may touch them in certain private areas; and if anyone tries to, they should tell their parents. Children who are unable to communicate with their parents are the most vulnerable and, therefore, ideal victims. Parents need to listen to what their children are saying and encourage them to speak.
For example, a child asks: “Mommy, what do you think of my new teacher, Mr. Jones?” The wrong answer would be “You should be so happy that he came into your life; he’s helping you so much!” The right answer would be “Why do you ask; tell me what you think.”
Awareness – Be Aware of Certain Facts on Pedophiles:
Although most victims of child molestation do not become offenders, research indicates many offenders are former victims, older than 25, single or married.