As an Early Childhood Educator and one who genuinely loves children, just the mere thought of an innocent but yet vulnerable child becoming the target of an older individual’s sexual sick and perverse fantasies is enough to make my stomach turn. As I began conversing with Educators on the topic of Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, I kept hearing a similar but yet alarmingly shocking response that sounded along the lines of this “It’s the parent’s job to do that.” My heart sank deeper than the ocean as I immediately began to think about those children in the foster care system who don’t even have parents. Whose job is it to reach those in the system that are silently being violated behind closed doors?
Foster children are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children who live with both biological parents. So if it’s entirely the parent’s job to educate the child on prevention these children are forgotten in the process, in a system where they are already forgotten. Or what about those children who are growing up in single parent homes with a live in partner? These children are at the highest risk because they are 20 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than those who are living with both biological Parents. Or worst what about Parents who were never properly equipped and trained on Child Abuse Prevention so it isn’t quite on their to do list? It is not only the sole responsibility of parents to educate their children on Child Abuse Prevention it is the Educator’s job as well. We have depended upon the the parents solely alone for decades which is the ultimate reason for the statistics being so high.
As Educators it is our job to serve as a support system to the families of the children that are entrusted in our care, that involves academically as well as the child’s social, emotional and mental development which can be interrupted if a child is being sexually abused especially if it’s ongoing for an extended period of time. Consider the words of a child who was being sexually abused by her father. “ I am broken, I was only a girl hiding under my sheets you took away all my innocence left me dead inside.” Sadly the long term effects of the abuse led to the teen committing suicide at just 17 years old.How can we call ourselves educators when we educate on everything except Child Sexual Abuse prevention? The one topic that is rarely being talked about in the classrooms but yet it affects so many children. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they turn 18. There are currently 42 million survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in America. How can we just sit back and allow the children who we say care about continue to be abused?
Children spend 8 to 10 hours or longer on average at school Monday through Friday if the child is involved in an afterschool program. They are underneath our care and whether we want to believe it or not there are children in our classes and in our schools that have been sexually abused, currently being sexually abused or potentially would be sexually abused. Why not teach something that could potentially save a child’s life figuratively and literally because the suicide rate is higher for those who are victims of sexual abuse. Why continue to keep Child Sexual Abuse prevention out of classrooms when so many of our children are affected by it?
At a time when Erin Merryn should have been enjoying the innocence of her childhood playing hopscotch, enjoying trips to the playground, building lifelong friendships, enjoying sleepovers incorporated with late night girl talk she wasn’t. One night during a friends sleepover her life was changed dramatically. A family member’s friend began sexually abusing her and continued for years. His exact words from the first encounter is forever engrained in her memory “This is our little secret and if you tell anyone no one will ever believe you.” So she kept it a secret until she was 13. Unfortunately after the abuse with this particular person ended someone else began sexually abusing her and continued for years. What if Child Abuse Prevention was taught at Erin’s school? Would Erin have held onto that secret for so long while the abuse continued to go on? If prevention was taught like other drills in schools such as fire drills, lockdown drills etc Erin would have known what to do after that first memorable and horrifying violation. Nevertheless fortunately Erin Merryn was one of the few who overcame what had been done to her and began a mission of making it mandated to teach Child Abuse Prevention in schools. Because of Erin Merryn reaching out to legislators in certain states the Erin’s Law as of July 2017 has been passed in 31 states with more states pending. The Erin’s Law requires that all public schools in each state implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program which teaches Students in grades preK – 12th grade, age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult. I believe that we have swept this issue underneath the rug for far too long and pushed it off on parents because we don’t want to deal with the reality of it. Although I believe it’s beneficial for parents to teach child abuse prevention to their children, I also believe it is the educator’s job as well to stand in the gap for those children without parents and for those children whose parents don’t do it for whatever the reason.
Daisy Copelin is an Early Childhood Educator who has had years of working in the Early Childhood Education field. A graduate from Nyack College and has taken an extensive amount of courses in Childhood Education.