As parents we warn our children not to talk to strangers. Yet, child sexual abuse overwhelmingly occurs when a child is molested by someone he or she knows. The violator can be a family friend, a coach, a sibling or even a parent. As the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse approaches on November 19th, which encompasses all types of child abuse, I feel I am obligated to share some insight on this issue as an attorney who has represented children who have been abused.
Recently two cases that have been in the local news involved a teenager being abused by a teacher and a coach. Appallingly, however, most child abuse doesn't involve teenage victims. Instead the majority of abused children are under the age of ten.
I was heartbroken representing a child who had been abused by a teacher who began pursuing (or grooming) her at the age of seven. Pedophiles can spend years ingratiating themselves into the child's family, gaining the parents' trust to the point that the pedophile is almost considered a member of the family. Gradually the pedophile takes more and more aggressive steps in pursuing the child, becoming more confident with each undetected move.
Other abusers can be a family member who betrays the most sacred trust within a family to harm an innocent family member. It is a sad commentary when we have to be more wary of the people we know than the people we don't.
Thankfully there are people and organizations out there that dedicated to eliminating sexual child abuse. One of these organizations is Darkness to Light. Through the YMCA I became a facilitator for Darkness to Light. Facilitators will meet with any organization or group to help educate people on the steps that can be taken to protect children from sexual abuse, and what to do it you discover that a child you know has been abused. To learn more visit the Darkness to Light website or contact the YMCA of Reading and Berks County.
John J. Speicher, Esq.