; charset=UTF-8" /> Safe Families, Safer Communities : Connecting Voices
Free hacker tools

Safe Families, Safer Communities

By Jaime J. Romo, Ed. D.

     One out of four girls and one out of six boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday (Finkelhor, 1990), a rate ten times that of cancer (Sadler, 1999).     That, by even the most conservative numbers, means 39,000,000 people in the United States have experienced sexual abuse in some way.

     It is time to heal and end abuse.

     The impacts of child sexual abuse (CSA) and other kinds of abuse are many and profound:  misplaced shame and sense of responsibility for the abuse and such destructive behavior as excessive drug and alcohol use, eating disorders and teen pregnancies.

     Dr. Vincent Felitti’s extensive Adverse Childhood Experiences (www.acestudy.org) study revealed the following correlations between CSA and mental and physical consequences:

Current depression  54%
Chronic depression  41%
Suicide attempts  58%
Alcoholism   65%
All drug use   50%
Injection drug use  78%
Promiscuity   48%
Rape victim   62%
Domestic violence victim 52%

     Few victims report their abuse because of the shame they feel.  They don’t know who to tell, or what words to use.  And, because no one asks them about it or wants to talk about it, they don’t realize how it is impacting their lives.   These destructive childhood experiences, the cost in damaged lives and the victims’ interpretations and behaviors must be addressed.

     During my years as a teacher and K-12 administrator, I had no idea of the widespread nature of child sexual abuse.  As I worked to help teachers become effective advocates for K-12 students and parents, I began to realize that when it comes to recognizing and preventing abuse, teachers and parents were woefully underprepared.

     That is why I am writing to you today.

     The last 20 years have seen an explosion in the number of revelations and lawsuits related to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by clergy, teachers, coaches, therapists and others in roles of authority.    While protecting and caring for children and vulnerable adults is clearly a central value of parental, educational, civic and religious organizations’ missions, how effectively are they addressing the problem?  In particular, what are churches doing to prevent abuse and promote healing?

     The disturbing charges of child sexual abuse during the many years Jerry Sandusky ran the ‘Second Mile’ program for underprivileged youth infuriate the public, and rightfully so.  Adults saw, told other adults, reported to police, reported to university administrators, who received formal complaints as far back as 1998.  And yet he was allowed to continue to act with full authority and access to more and more vulnerable children. 

     Some organizations employ a “one size fits all” Safe Space policy, others boundary trainings via on-line videos and quizzes — with little assessment of their impact on members of the organization.  Safe Space Policies created by a few people on behalf of an organization do not protect children or create an environment in which those who are being “groomed” for sex or those who have been sexually abused at some time in their lives can find support and healing.  Too often, parents and church members take comfort in the practice of implementing background checks to discover registered sex offenders.  Sandusky was not on a sex offender list.

     I think the lack of outrage by churchgoers about sexual abuse may relate to guilt, shame and anger turned inward (depression) in those who saw and did not act.  It may also be a self-protective devise in those who have experienced sexual abuse  – shutting down rather than intervening.  This ineffective behavior must stop.

     That is why I and my colleague, Svava Brooks, director of TAALK San Diego, have created ‘Safe Families, Safer Communities,’ a two-hour parent and teacher workshop.  In this workshop, participants will:

• Understand child sexual abuse contexts, data, and impacts.
• Gain information about stranger danger and child abuse.
• Review prevention and intervention strategies to protect children from sexual abuse.
• Learn to talk to their kids and other adults about personal safety.
• Assess tools that can help parents discuss abuse comfortably with their children.
• Practice questions every parent should ask before placing their child in the care of others.
• Receive a copy of “Parents Preventing Abuse”
• Develop a community action plan to bring ‘Safe Families, Safer Communities’ trainings to parents.

Dr. Vincent Felitti, world-renown principal co-investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, says about our workshop, “I am pleased to support TAALK San Diego’s proposal to bring a community awareness and prevention program for child sexual abuse into San Diego, California.  I believe that an awareness and prevention program like the one proposed by TAALK San Diego is crucial in shifting public consciousness and breaking the silence around abuse… I am well familiar with Svava Brooks, one of the organizers, and feel she is an experienced, highly capable person for this work, as is Dr. Jaime Romo, another valuable leader in this field.” 

     We will be offering the workshop monthly to any parents who sign up.  We also envision local civic and religious groups hosting workshops for their members.   Through such partnerships informed adults will be able to shift the culture in our society that allows sexual abuse to occur.

     April is sexual assault awareness month but the problem is ongoing.  Together, we can prevent sexual abuse. Parents, educators and church goers must learn enough to act now to prevent future abuse and to help those in their organizations (20%) who already carry abuse experiences unbeknownst to others.

     In addition to the ‘Safe Families, Safer Communities’ workshop and the 6 month ‘Protecting All God’s Children’ seminar,  I am available to provide a one-day ‘Protecting All God’s Children’ workshop to help congregational leadership teams jumpstart a process of creating ‘Making Churches Safe’ policies, Response Teams, meaningful education programs and assessment procedures for being a safe and healing community.  Contact me to arrange for a workshop in your area:  Jaime Romo at jr@jaimeromo.com

About the speakers: 

Dr. Romo is a Commissioned Minister in the United Church of Christ for Healing and Healthy Environments. He earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of San Diego in 1998 and has served as K-12 teacher and administrator and teacher educator. He has taken an active role in developing and implementing Safe Church Policies and Healing Community practices in churches since 2009, leading trainings for parents, volunteers and employees. His most recent books are: “Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters;” “Parents Preventing Abuse;” and “Teachers Preventing Abuse.” Dr. Romo coaches survivors and supporters in person and via on-line healing programs at www.healingthesexuallyabusedheart.com. For more info, see www.jaimeromo.com

Svava Brooks is a co-founder and VP for a national non-profit in Iceland dedicated to awareness and education about child sexual abuse and prevention. Svava, currently serves as  Program Director for TAALK.  (www.taalk.org) TAALK is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation in OC with the mission is to break the silence that surrounds child sexual abuse.  Svava also is a trainer and facilitator for Darkness to Light Stewards of Children prevention training, an evidence-based Child Sexual Abuse Prevention training.  Svava has provided education and trainings on child abuse and prevention to thousands of adults and teenagers in Iceland and now in Southern CA. For more information, see http://speak4change.com/

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free