Betrayed by those they trusted
Betrayal of a child’s trust can leave terrible scars.
This is especially true when it is a parent, friend, or mentor who betrays the child’s trust.
The magnitude of child abuse by parents can be seen from the flood of phone calls received by a hot line after the broadcast of a program called “Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse.”
The talk-show was hosted by the famous Oprah Winfrey in the United States.
The most shocking crisis calls were from young children, calling in fear, wanting to escape the pain of physical or sexual abuse,” noted executive producer Arnold Shapiro, as quoted in the journal Children Today.This event did much to dispel the notion that child abusers are big scary strangers.
The fact is that “the vast majority of abuse is perpetrated by parents and other close relatives,” concludes Shapiro.
Other research confirms this finding and also indicates that trusted family friends have at times groomed the child and family for later, well-planned abuse of the child.
Incest is the most shocking betrayal of trust.
Sexual abuse by pedophiles is another threat to children throughout the world.
Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice gives this definition:
Paedophilia refers to sexual attraction towards the very young. . . . Paedophilia invariably involves the commission of crimes such as sexual assault, indecency and offences relating to child pornography.”
Sickening reports of pedophile rings, which greedily exploit children sexually, are flooding in from all over the world.
Some months ago, in one of the largest undercover sting efforts ever carried out against Internet child pornography, police in 12 countries raided the homes of more than 100 suspected pedophiles.
From just one pedophile ring based in the United States, they recovered over 100,000 pornographic images of children.
A British detective who coordinated the five-month Internet investigation states:
“The content would absolutely turn the stomach of any right-minded person.”
Children were of both sexes, some as young as two years of age.
Police said that the Internet images were;
“the most revolting depictions of child porno. . . . It went so far that people abused their own children to be able to present the most striking material.”
One man kept photos of himself raping his niece and entered these in his computer.
Suspects included teachers, a scientist, a law student, a medical student, a scoutmaster, an accountant, and a university professor.
Lured by unscrupulous men, they are sexually abused and then threatened or lavishly spoiled to encourage them to remain with the “club.”
The men who plan and perform these vile acts are often prominent leaders of the community and sometimes do so with the full knowledge and protection of the police and the judiciary.
Sexual abuse of children by clergymen is also causing outrage.
News reports from all over the world reveal the extent of child abuse by clergymen, sometimes even in the name of God.
For example, a convicted Anglican priest told his ten-year-old victim that,
God was speaking through him [the clergyman], and anything he did or anything [the boy] did was loved by God and therefore right.”
In Australia a review of the book The Battle and the Backlash: The Child Sexual Abuse War commented on child abuse by clergymen and others in positions of trust.
It said that the organizations involved appeared to be concerned with limiting the damage to their own image and protecting themselves rather than protecting vulnerable children.
Child abuse effects
A child’s trust is usually given completely, without reservation.
So if that trust is betrayed, it has a devastating impact on an unsuspecting young mind.
The publication Child Abuse & Neglect notes:
Persons and places that previously signaled safety or support have become associated with danger and fear. The child’s world becomes less predictable and controllable.”
As a result of such abuse, much of which has gone on for many years, some children have developed social and psychiatric problems later in life, well into adulthood.
This betrayal of trust is so damaging because a child has been taken advantage of because he or she is a child.
Yet, many children who are abused never report the matter—a fact that child abusers rely heavily on.
In recent years, evidence of worldwide child abuse has been growing, so that today there is a mountain of such evidence that can no longer be denied or ignored.
But most agree that the elimination of child abuse is a formidable task.
So these questions arise: Is there anyone who can really protect our children?
How can those of us who are parents protect their heritage and look after the lives of our vulnerable young children?
Combating child abuse
It is encouraging to know that child abuse is now acknowledged as a worldwide problem.
Additionally, some countries are now passing legislation that outlaws sex tourism and child pornography.
Some are even setting up a register of known pedophiles, restricting their easy access to children.
Then there are those who seek a better life for children by passing legislation to protect them.
And a few more countries and individuals are refusing to buy products manufactured by means of child labor.
While we all no doubt applaud such efforts to rid society of child abuse, we must be realistic and acknowledge that child abuse has very deep roots in human society.
It would be naive to think that a simple solution such as legislation will provide complete protection for our children.
Many laws have already been passed, and yet the problem persists.
It is really an indictment of the world’s delinquent adults that the natural right to childhood has to be protected by a vast array of laws.
Laws are not the ultimate protection for children.
We have only to look at the results of such formidable legislation as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which many governments are signatories.
It is well documented that even many of these governments, pushed to the limits by economic constraints, are not doing enough to stop the exploitation of their children.
Child abuse continues to be a major international problem.
How parents can help prevent child abuse?
Successful parenting is a demanding job. It calls for sacrifice.
But caring parents need to make sure that it is not their children who are sacrificed.
Maclean’s magazine notes that often “parenting is viewed as if it’s a hobby.”
A toy may be discarded or a hobby discontinued, but parenting is a responsibility.
Your being a good parent is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your child, as it will help him or her to have a happy, secure childhood.
Such security does not depend on social or economic status in life.
Your child needs you—your love and affection, your assurances when he or she feels threatened, and your time.
Your child wants to hear your voice telling stories, wants you as a role model, and wants your loving discipline.
On the subject of sexual morality—parents, conduct your family relationships with modesty and respect for your children’s minds and bodies.
Children learn very quickly what actions cross the moral boundaries that parents establish with them.
They need to be taught how to conduct themselves both inside and outside the home.
If you fail to do this, someone else will do it for you, and you may not like the result.
Teach children how to react if they are ever morally threatened.
Let them know what their private body parts are for, and teach them that these are not to be violated.
Tell them how to react if they are approached by anyone who wants to take advantage of them.
At all times know where your children are and who is with them.
Who are your child’s close friends?
Who are your child’s caregivers during your absence?
Can they be trusted?
That does not mean, of course, that a parent has to be suspicious of everyone.
Make a proper assessment of the adults in your child’s life, looking beyond outward appearances.
Think of the heartbreak of parents who have discovered, too late, that their children have been abused by trusted clergymen, teachers, or even close family members.