Protecting children from abusers requires parents

This is how it went down: Teens in the schools received emails from an unknown source. The emails contained sexually provocative texts and pictures and requested the recipient to send back their own sexual pictures. Most of the students who received the emails ignored them They were not sure who sent the emails to them and had little interest in what they were seeing. Many of them had, in fact, become habituated to such sexually provocative material to the point that they did not even mention it to anyone, not a parent, teacher or in many cases not even a friend. They either saved the email for its lurid value or simply erased and deleted what they received. Still the phishing expedition, seeking someone to respond to the emails, continued luring in whoever was susceptible enough to take a nude self-pic and send that picture back to the unknown person requesting it. This is part of the sexually exploitative grooming that takes place when a child predator presents a façade of caring while surreptitiously seeking out victims.

Is this what occurred at Netiv Aryeh, Yeshivah of Flatbush and Salanter Akiba Riverdale, SAR? I do not know for sure. But this is precisely what happened elsewhere many times over. If you are shocked by this I understand. It is shocking and dealing with it multiple times as I have does not make it any less abhorrent. Situations like this play out very often and there are not many ways to contain it so that it does not continue to happen. What can often make the situations of childhood sexual exploitation worse is the lack of follow through by those charged to intervene.

I have been involved as a consulting expert in cases where teachers have groomed students that they were hired to privately tutor and in the words of one child “He showed me how to get porn on my phone and then how to masturbate.” The student never told a parent or a school administrator. Other students suspected that the teacher was in their words “creepy that way” but they too said nothing. That is in part because they were groomed by the abuser to say nothing and their parents believed that the teacher was a dedicated and caring educator who devoted his time to their child’s educational needs.

When a child informs me of horrific acts like these perpetrated by sexual predators, I file a report with the authorities. Many times that is where the situation ends because the school hires a firm or nominal expert to mitigate their liability and the parents do not want their child to testify in court even though the child may not need to.

I am a strong supporter for the need to have sexual abuse policies in place at schools and youth organizations to protect everyone from exploitation and abuse. I have written policies and have helped to draft policy and procedure documents for large organizations. Policy documents are necessary to create clear boundaries and guidelines for appropriate behaviors and reporting responsibility. But they are insufficient. Predators are excellent actors who know how to play the roles necessary to achieve their despicable goals. They know inherently that the odds of getting caught are small and for them the risk is minimal. They are good at deflection and gas lighting and can use those skills to blame their victims and make themselves seem innocent.

I am a strong advocate for the need to do extensive background checks and finger printing. Any organization that does not do this is not doing the foundational efforts necessary to protect their students. But here too, if there is no prior arrest or formal report of abuse than the likelihood of anything turning up other than rumor is slim to none.

I think the most important issue that has yet to be properly addressed is the fact that parents and schools are not properly educating children. A joint effort that is open and honest is needed. Before a child is allowed to drive we require that they have driving lessons. A car is a dangerous object and safety is important. Parents give cell phones to children, another potentially dangerous object, without training or safety instructions. Putting locks on cell phones does not prevent work arounds that allow children to be vulnerable to exploitation. Worse though is the prudishness of parents about educating children about sex, how to properly protect themselves and that they must tell parents if they are being exposed to something sexual — what is healthy and what is abuse. And, if there is abuse parents have to follow through and see to it that a report is not buried but acted upon.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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