Preventing sexual abuse of children is not a ‘white hats’ vs ‘black hats’ contest

Nov 13, 2019 by

by Celia Wolf-Devine, MercatorNet:

I recently signed up at our parish in Maine to take communion out to the sick and those in nursing homes.  In addition to a lengthy application form, I found I had to attend a session on keeping our children safe, and keep up with a program called VIRTUS that gives us monthly readings on how churches can prevent sexual abuse of children in connection with Church-related activities.  On the basis of my own experience and that of others I know, their approach has struck me as wrong-headed in many ways.

The picture that emerges in these readings is one that engenders fear and distrust.  We, the virtuous parents, must be vigilant at all times to protect our children against sinister people stalking around, trying to worm their way into the children’s confidence in order to sexually exploit them. Staff who are nice to the children and friendly to their families are, perhaps, only “grooming” them to get access to them.  A “white hats” and “black hats” vision of reality, for sure.

We need to think in a more nuanced way about the problem if we are to make progress.  Some would-be cures themselves generate serious problems.

Although there are people who prowl around specifically trying to recruit children into pornography or sex trafficking, most sexual molestation of children happens within the extended family and the close circle of friends who are around the children often.  These relationships can spring up spontaneously rather than being premeditated, and there may be genuine loving feelings on the part of both child and adult.

Using the same word, “abuse”, for improper sexual behaviour and for violence (beating children, for example) is misleading.  The term “sexual abuse” has been used so vaguely that it covers widely different offenses.  Giving a child a little pat on the buttocks (while improper and unpleasant to the child, no doubt) is in a different category from sneaking into his dormitory and sexually assaulting him in the night.

Read here


Related Posts


Share This