31 May 2012

Recognizing True Nature of Child Sexual Abuse

Child safety laws” are being passed all over the country, restricting sex offenders from accessing public parks, beaches and even libraries. But those laws are too little, too late, for the one in four girls who experience child sexual abuse. By focusing on a criminal justice response for the offender, communities miss an opportunity to prevent future abuse.

An estimated 10 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to authorities. The other 90 percent of offenders continue to live among us, obscured by the fact that they are our uncles, family friends and basketball coaches. The real danger to children is not the unknown sex offender – who may not even be dangerous, depending on the nature of his crime – but the abusers that we trust and love without suspicion. What’s more effective than banning strangers from the park is creating a Family Safety Plan for loved ones in your home. Make a commitment to protect your children – and your community’s children – through pro-active solutions.

Photo: Elizabeth Rappaport

18 May 2012

Communities Must Face the True Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse

A response to the New York Times article, "Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse":

Child sexual abuse is one of the last remaining taboos. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 grown women and 1 in 6 grown men were victims of child sexual abuse. However, even in light of such staggering rates, we have communities throughout the country that would rather sweep the issue under the rug than address the true costs of this abuse.

Whether you are talking about the Catholic Church, which is actively appealing a law that would extend the statute of limitations for victims reporting these crimes; Penn State officials, who were more interested in protecting the football program than the countless boys who were abused by its celebrity coach, Jerry Sandusky; or the members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn who are actively dissuading victims and families from reporting abuse to the authorities, communities across the nation are deciding to protect their reputation at the expense of their children.

My own experience in dealing with domestic violence in the Asian-American community - a community that prides itself on fostering the "model family," much like Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York - revealed that people were afraid to talk about violence and abuse because they feared tarnishing the community’s image. Only when the community addressed this violence openly and honestly could progress and change be achieved. We must display the same courage when it comes to child sexual abuse.

The statistics speak for themselves. We know that child sexual abuse is linked to so many social ills for survivors down the road, including re-victimization as adults, higher rates of domestic and sexual violence and increased rates of substance abuse and poverty. This is an issue that cannot and must not be ignored.

That is why the Ms. Foundation for Women is funding groups working across the country to bring this issue out of the shadows and into the light of day. Hiding it under the rug only serves to weaken our communities – and further endanger our children – but, if we have the courage and resolve to address it head-on, we can change the lives of thousands of children, strengthen our families and transform our communities.

Patricia Eng
Vice President, Grants and Capacity Building, Ms. Foundation for Women

Learn more about the Ms. Foundation and PreventConnect's "Ending Child Sexual Abuse" web conference series. 
Sign-up to receive email about the series. 

11 May 2012

Working Moms are Mom Enough

Time magazine’s recent shocking cover (you know the one where a toddler is standing on a chair while nursing) with the provocative headline “Are you Mom Enough?” has spurred extensive dialogue over the subject of attachment parenting.

However, an important piece of this conversation is missing. While attachment parenting has become a phenomenon among an elite group of career moms who can afford to have their children attached to their hip (or nipple), this simply isn’t an option for many moms.

The reality is that 65% of low wage workers are women, and many of these women are mothers. These women are actually very attached. Attached to their jobs (sometimes more than one) that allow them to feed their families, put a roof over their head, and pay for their childcare.

These women are “Mom Enough,” even if they work outside the home. And, their children aren’t fated for developmental disorders or attachment issues.

Amidst all these “mommy wars,” Time magazine could have lifted up a more relevant debate by framing a discussion around core concerns for all mothers.

Addressing the gender wage gap and disparities in accessing affordable, quality day care options would be an admirable start. Addressing the lack of mandates for minimum paid parental leave after childbirth would also resonate with the larger audience of mothers who have important things to worry about (like keeping their jobs).

Working moms have enough to stress about; let’s not add the pressure of breastfeeding till the age of three to the laundry list of responsibilities working mothers already face.

The Future is in our Past

Guest post by Cordelia Anderson and Joan Tabachnick, co-hosts, Ending Child Sexual Abuse (ECSA) Web Conference Series

With over 60 years of experience across the three eloquent speakers, the Ms. Foundation for Women (MFW) launched the new web conference series “Ending Sexual Abuse” to a sold out crowd.

The first web conference focused on highlighting Efforts to End Child Sexual Abuse within the Sexual Violence Prevention Movement. The three speakers, Gina Scaramella, Executive Director, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Donna Dunn, Executive Director, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Sally J. Laskey, Director Special Projects, National Sexual Violence Resource Center all agreed that ending child sexual abuse was essential to their own work to stopping sexual violence across the lifespan of women.

Together, the speakers pointed to ways child sexual abuse has been addressed throughout the history of their organizations—from early speak outs, to advocacy with adult survivors, to collaborative work for social change.

Gina talked about BARCC’s work with early childhood education and how their own research showed that 70% of the early education and care workers saw some sexual behavior, but few of them any idea how to respond. The curriculum BARCC developed provides information about healthy sexual development and addresses practical questions such as how to deal with sexual behaviors in these settings.

Donna pointed to their statewide policy work to garner attention for prevention. MNCASA has been able to mobilize a broader community through engaging Voices of Experience and over 50 partners to Demand the Change for Children.

Sally highlighted the ways NSVRC learns from local efforts to develop ground breaking national resources based on collected knowledge, such as, research on bystanders, research on healthy sexuality and involvement in the National Coalition to Prevention to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation.

Together, each of the speakers sent a clear message that:
  • Child sexual abuse is a foundational component of the sexual violence prevention movement
  • There are many new ways of pushing for substantive change when we focus on ending child sexual abuse
  • Finding the right partners can lift our work into the minds and hearts of our communities
The web conference ended with a long listing of prevention actions. What can you do? Here are just a few ideas:
  • Attend or listen to a recording of a MFW Web Conference
  • Read the blogs and tell us what you are doing – post your own ideas and programs
  • Learn more from the links listed in each webinar and in this blog
  • Tell someone about the work you are doing or the work you are reading about
  • Know you can make a difference and be part of an inspiring, urgent, and effective movement

Download the slides from this web conference.

View the full presentation online (you will be asked to enter your email address in order to sign-on).
Sign-up to learn more about upcoming sessions.

We hope you will join us for one of the future web conferences or look in the archives for one you missed. For more information visit the MFW and Prevent-Connect websites.

08 May 2012

Courageous Conversations – The Place to Be

By Cordelia Anderson and Joan Tabachnick, co-hosts, Ending Child Sexual Abuse (ECSA) Web Conference Series

The Ms. Foundation for Women (MFW) has made the courageous decision to direct a significant portion of its resources towards ending child sexual abuse. Monique Hoeflinger, Senior Program Officer, Safety at the Ms. Foundation laid the ground work for why MFW chose this issue as one of its priorities by saying,
“Ending child sexual abuse is one of the most strategic things we can do to improve the lives of women and communities.”
Given the frequency of sexual abuse against children and the life-long impact of that abuse, focusing on child sexual abuse prevention makes sense. Among the approaches that MFW supports are those that move beyond traditional child-focused strategies and instead, engage adults and communities in prevention efforts.

As just one part of their broad efforts, the Ending Child Sexual Abuse (ECSA) Web Conference Series is designed to bring the best thinking, programs, and insights they have seen to a larger community of stakeholders. Through this exciting new partnership with us (Cordelia and Joan), Prevent-Connect, and most importantly – all of you – we hope to build a stronger and more effective movement to end child sexual abuse. The goals of this series are to:
  • Raise visibility and dialogue within prevention community
  • Engage new communities in this movement
  • Increase knowledge, resources and strategic action on child sexual abuse
Over the next nine months, we plan to cover the following exciting topics:
  • Including Child Sexual Abuse in the Sexual Violence Prevention Movement
  • Media and Prevention
  • Preventing the Perpetration of Child Sexual Abuse
  • Voices of Experience: the role of direct experiences in social change
  • Healthy Sexuality and Caring Connections: Foundations for Prevention
  • Policies Promoting and Derailing Prevention
  • Depictions of Children in Media and Pornography: Implications for Prevention
  • Activism in Prevention
  • Using Art as a Catalyst for Social Change and Social Action
Look on the MFW or the Prevent-Connect websites for dates and time and more details. And if you miss one of them, don’t worry! Both the slides and audio are available to anyone.

We hope you will join us for one of these future web conferences.