An Open Letter to Massachusetts Citizens About the Penn State Scandal and How We Can Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Our State
November 14, 2011
November 14, 2011
While the Penn State child sex abuse scandal and cover-up grab national attention, the fact is that cases of child sexual abuse continue to be exposed with unrelenting regularity in every state and community across our country. In Massachusetts alone just in the past six months, we have learned about the decades-long sexual abuse of boys treated by renowned pediatrician Dr. Melvin Levin of Children's Hospital, the revealed boyhood sexual abuse of Senator Scott Brown by a counselor at a Cape Cod summer camp, the sexual abuse of young female tennis players by former Massachusetts coach and International Tennis Hall of Famer Bob Hewitt. Many more current incidents of child sexual abuse involving less well-known abusers appear weekly in local newspapers all across our state.
Predictably, the Sandusky/Paterno case has prompted the media to focus on who knew what and when. Legislators rush to file bills to strengthen reporting requirements, the alleged abuser is arrested and charged, and we all express sorry for the children who have been violated and for their families who are distressed beyond what we can even imagine.
But the truth is that these after-the-fact responses are insufficient to address what the American Medical Association has labeled "…a silent, violent epidemic." It's time to support efforts aimed at preventing child sexual abuse from happening in the first place. This is what Massachusetts Citizens for Children (MCC), lead agency for the Enough Abuse Campaign, has been working to do since the Campaign was launched in 2002.
A public opinion poll conducted in 2007 by the Campaign documented that:
- 80% of citizens believe child sexual abuse is a serious problem in our state
- 75% said they believe it is preventable
- 64% said they would be willing to participate in local community trainings about child sexual abuse and how they can prevent it – up from 48% in a poll conducted four years earlier
Clearly, citizens like you are critical partners in getting the word out that child sexual abuse can be prevented and that in Massachusetts, through the Enough Abuse Campaign, we have the tools and the tested strategies to get the job done.
As a parent, grandparent, or concerned citizen, we are asking you to:
- Educate yourself about the real facts of child sexual abuse so that you can be an informed advocate for your children and all the children in your family and community.
- Get involved with the Enough Abuse Campaign, a Massachusetts effort that has been recognized nationally as an effective model to mobilize communities and educate parents, youth, and a range of professionals and other adults about child sexual abuse and how to prevent it.
- Support the Campaign with your dollars so we can achieve our goal: By 2015 every city and town in Massachusetts will be actively engaged in learning about child sexual abuse and preventing it.
Here are the details.
The Enough Abuse Campaign is overseen by the Massachusetts Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Partnership, a collaboration of twenty statewide public agencies and private organizations. The Campaign was formed in 2002 under a 5-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our nation's leading public health agency. The Campaign is now operating in Greater Gloucester, Newton/Waltham, Orange/Athol area, Greater Lowell, Springfield, and in western rural counties. Efforts are currently underway to expand the Campaign to Cape Cod and other communities.
The Campaign's work has caused the CDC to call Massachusetts "one of the first states in the nation to lead a trailblazing effort to prevent child sexual abuse…." The Ms. Foundation for Women has called the Campaign "an effort that breaks the mold on child sexual abuse in many ways. Its emphasis on community collaboration truly sets it apart from previous efforts.” The Campaign was selected earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as one of 12 exemplary projects in the country working to end child maltreatment.
While the Campaign mobilizes communities and trains their leaders to deliver free in-person community workshops and presentations, a new effort has been launched to educate concerned citizens in the privacy of their own homes and offices. By "Joining the Movement" on the Campaign's homepage, members receive by email our "10 Conversations" series; a new short educational piece is sent twice each month for five months filled with critical information every concerned adult should know and can use to prevent sexual abuse. Topics include:
- What is Child Sexual Abuse? Touching and Non-Touching Offenses
- Who are the Abusers? How Can We Identify Them?
- Grooming Tactics used by Sexual Abusers
- Behavior and Physical Signs that Might Indicate Child Sexual Abuse
- Sexual Behaviors of Children: Typical or Problematic?
- Responding to Sexual Behaviors of Children: Building Skills to Respond Appropriately
- Talk to Your Children: It's Easy if You Begin Early and Communicate Often
- Impact of Child Sexual Abuse on Children
- Keeping Children Safe on the Internet
- The Public's Opinion on Child Sexual Abuse
So please take these actions today. Go to www.enoughabuse.org and view our brief video, "a silent epidemic." (Many have called it "powerful", "compelling", "a real eye opener.") Then be sure to "Join the Movement" on the homepage so you can begin immediately receiving our "10 Conversations" series online. Tell family members, friends and colleagues about how they, too, can get educated and encourage them to join.
Make an online contribution now to fund our cutting-edge work. Currently, the Campaign is funded solely by a $75,000 grant from the national Ms. Foundation for Women. If we could double or triple that amount, we could reach more communities and youth-serving organizations with our trainings sooner.
Let's protect Massachusetts children and our communities from a tragedy like the Penn State scandal. We can do it. We have already begun. Are you with us? Our children are waiting…
MCC Executive Director
For the Enough Abuse Campaign