12 It is not enemies who taunt me— I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me— I could hide from them.
13 But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend,
14 with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng. (Psalm 55:12-14)
One of the saddest of all Psalms (Psalm 55) sings the pain of one who was betrayed by a beloved close one. The psalmist writes that the betrayer was one who shared his journey of faith and the intimacy of worship. That’s what makes the betrayal, in the mind of the psalmist, so hard to bear. A stranger is hard…but you? My beloved close one? I trusted you….
Children who are sexually abused most often know their abusers. In fact, 90% of abusers are known to the victim. (I trusted you…) The “stranger in the trench coat lurking in the park” might be dangerous, but maybe not nearly as dangerous as Mom’s boyfriend, Uncle Junior, Cousin Willie or….Daddy or StepDad. Our children are encouraged to trust beloved godparents, aunts, neighbors — and they should be able to. We cannot imagine that these beloved members of our families and communities would ever harm our children.
But it happens.
“20 My companion laid hands on a friend and violated a covenant with me 21 with speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war; with words that were softer than oil, but in fact were drawn swords.”
Speech smoother than butter, but violent hearts….soft words delivered with sharp swords…
Screaming headlines bespeak the need for urgency in our communities to embrace public education and to call for common sense child protection practices and policies. No need for paranoia — paranoia does not prevent harm.
Instead, we need to be awake, conscious….not afraid to ask questions, proactive in establishing norms and willing to learn what it means to protect the children in our midst. When we are proactive, we can also protect the adults – the many well-intentioned mentors, youth pastors, relatives, community members we depend on to stand in the gap for our children who need relationships with caring adults.
A few months ago, I went through training conducted by a national organization called Darkness to Light to become a certified facilitator for the Stewards of Children program. This workshop endeavors to teach adults that preventing child sexual abuse is our adult responsibility – and it is doable. I’m preparing myself to lead workshops to help people understand that we really can stop child sexual abuse; and I anticipate that the hardest thing for people to grasp will be understanding just how prevalent but preventable child sexual abuse is.
I want to do my part to raise awareness and to help equip the adults in my community with the tools they need to protect children.
Let us all pursue opportunities to bring healing to families. Let us all do what we can to deliver conscious adults to the next generation of children. Let us work to prevent child sexual abuse.