Posts Tagged ‘prisons’

If you were asked what the most critical problems facing our society today are, how would you answer? Poverty? Crime? Drug abuse? Sex Trafficking? What if I told you that most of these problems could be reduced or even eliminated? Most of these problems all stem from the same root cause: Child abuse and neglect.

Studies have shown that victims of child sexual abuse are at a higher risk for substance abuse problems, associated psychological disorders and/or mental problems. They are also at a higher risk for committing violent crimes. And yet when we hear of one of these abused children being arrested and convicted of crimes we seem to have little or no compassion for them.

According to a report released by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost half of the women and one tenth of the men in our nation’s jails and prisons say they were physically or sexually abused as a child before their imprisonment. For prisoners who had spent part of their childhoods in foster care, the rate of abuse was even higher. 44% of the male prisoners and 87% of the female prisoners who had spent the majority of their childhood in foster care or institutions reported abuse. These were foster homes that were supposed to be a safe place for them to live!

These experiences are deeply traumatizing for a child and have long-lasting and profound impacts on them. Child abuse, which includes sexual, physical, emotional and child neglect, is a major social problem in our country. In ‘Does Child Abuse Cause Crime?’ (NBER Working Paper No. 12171), authors Janet Currie and Erdal Tekin found that child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime.

This does not mean that every victim of child abuse will grow up to commit crimes or become a drug addict. It simply means that they are at a higher risk. That is why it is so important for school counselors and teachers to become familiar with the many ways in which childhood abuse and neglect issues can manifest themselves in a child. At the same time, they must realize that disclosure of child abuse does not always happen as as quickly as they would hope. Many times it may take a victim several months to reveal the abuse—sometimes years. I have known many adults who have never revealed their childhood abuse until they were over 60 years old!

The question many ask is, “Why don’t children tell someone about their abuse?” There are many reasons why a child victim of sexual abuse is not likely to tell anyone about their abuse. Often, the abusive adult will convince the child that they won’t be believed. Children frequently remain silent to protect a non-abusive parent from becoming upset. In order to keep the abuse secret, the abuser will often play on the child’s fear, embarrassment or guilt about what happened, convincing them that no one will believe them or that telling anyone will break up the family and it will be the child’s fault. 

Another reason kids don’t tell is because they may know friends who have also been abused at home and went to court. Not only did their friend not receive justice, they also ended up in foster care for a while. So they don’t tell anyone. They just try to forget about it and keep all the hurt inside—And so does their family.

Many times an abuser could be someone you’re close to or in a relationship with. Children of single mothers are especially vulnerable. The mom is so busy working to pay bills and put food on the table, (Sometimes working two or three jobs) that she may not imagine someone whom she invited into her home would have intentions of harming her children. But it has been proven that children living with only one biological parent are 33 times more likely to be sexually abused than children who live with both their biological parents.

Watch for the signs

So how can we know who to trust? We need to read the signs. Someone may be a danger to your children if they:

  • Insist on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it. 
  • Insist on time alone with a child with no interruptions. 
  • Are overly interested in the sexual development of your child or teenager. 
  • Regularly offer to baby-sit children for free or take children on overnight outings alone. 
  • Buy your children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason. 

Lastly, check to see if the person you’re in a relationship with is listed on the National Sex Offender Registry—Not just the local registry. Because a registered sex offender will not volunteer his or her information. And if found out, will most often tell you how they were unjustly convicted. Also be aware that many sex offenders will move away from the state they lived when they were convicted without notifying the state where they move to. Because they know that authorities will not look for them unless they commit another crime.  

We all feel shock and outrage whenever we hear of child sexual exploitation by a teacher, coach or religious instructor, but stories of a child being sexually abused by a parent, step-parent, or someone living in the same home as the child rarely receives even a blip on the local news.

Why is it so easy for us to ignore these lost children? 

Maybe because it’s easier for us to ignore the root problem than to work on a solution. To begin with, we need to work to change the court system when it comes to dealing with those convicted of child sexual abuse. When someone is convicted in court, most judges allow the perpetrators to plead guilty to a lesser charge and sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender—which does nothing to protect vulnerable children.

Many still believe that the Sex Offender Registry prevents pedophiles from living near them in their in their community. This is a misconception. Nebraska is one of 22 states that don’t place any restrictions on child sex offenders. None! This means that a convicted child sex offender can visit and/or work in schools, daycares, children museums, and even live with or socialize with vulnerable children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. (Nebraska statutes 29-4004 and 29-4006) Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victim!

Prosecutors will tell the victim that it will be emotionally easier for them if they allow a plea deal. But what they don’t tell them is that when a case of child sexual abuse is brought before the court, the perpetrator is charged with crimes against the State, not against the victim. Then, the only option for the victim to get justice for what’s been done to them is to take it to civil court. How many 6 to 9 year old victims do you think have the knowledge and financial means to take their abuser to civil court? 

Another thing we can do is petition out legislators to change the Sex Offender Registry laws in our state to better protect our children. I have written to many state senators asking them to change the SOR law. The very few that responded told me that there was nothing they could do. It’s easy for politicians to ignore one or two people, but it’s much harder for them to ignore hundreds of people demanding the same thing.

Lastly, we can encourage survivors of child sexual abuse to speak out. Arrange for schools to allow them to tell their story and contact local news outlets and ask them to cover the event. It is a proven fact that other victims will open up when they know someone else has experienced the same thing. Child sexual abuse needs to be talked about. Remaining silent will only keep this epidemic hidden. 

“Only by dropping our well worn masks

revealing the degrading darkness of hell

can we hope to finally bask

in the life giving light outside our cell.”

By Juno Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author and survivor of childhood sexual abuse

Sex trafficking, drug abuse, mental health issues and criminal activity are only symptoms of the problem. We need to take care of the root of the problem. Otherwise, all the laws we pass and programs we develop will be like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. 

“…but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

Other resources:

https://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/what-keeps-us-from-talking-about-sexual-abuse

https://www.smallvoices.org

https://www.d2l.org/the-issue/statistics/

https://laurenskids.org/education/curriculum/

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