I am currently back teaching, working daily with 24 + active kids ranging from 5 to 12 years. I am loving every moment of their raucous enthusiasm and their overall joy of learning… but as I instruct, laugh at their bubbly chatter and generally call for order, at the back of my mind something more sinister has been nagging at me.
Finally, after a few weeks of in and out of various classrooms, I faced up to what I know to be true. Of a classroom I may enter of 24, six year olds — 3 of the girls and 2 of the boys, are being, have been or will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. These are the statistics; this I know to be true.
I now look around a sea of happy, excited faces, and wonder which ones ‘they’ are. Which of the little ones in front of me, crowded around my feet in a sharing circle, go to bed night after night terrified; so terrified by their secret, that they cannot and may never tell anyone. Children frightened beyond anything I could ever write in this blog, because if they do tell (as they have been told many times by their perpetrator) their mother will be killed, their dog or favourite pet slaughtered and/or they will go to jail and never see their family again — and of course it will be all their fault. These are just some of the kind of threats these terrified children (as young as 2) have to endure. We also know, young children believe in fairies, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny; uneducated in body safety, they are going to believe every word their perpetrator tells them. They cannot and will not tell their crippling secret for fear of the reprisal. The bravery it would take for a young child to disclose sexual abuse — taking into consideration the kind of threats they are issued — is beyond my comprehension.
Again, I look around the classroom and wonder is it the shy little girl who doesn’t mutter a word, is it the nervous little boy who tries so hard to be good, or could it be the disheveled clever little girl who daily has dark circles under her eyes. I don’t know. I can’t tell. It could be any of the 24 six year olds in front of me.
What I do know is this…it is an utter disgrace that schools and parents do not actively teach ‘body safety’ to children from as young as three. How dare our fear and our denial surrounding the sexual abuse of children, make some kids carry a burden so heavy that they may never recover. In fact, further into teenage hood and adulthood they may well take their own life. Children who have been sexually abused will never experience the life they should have lived. They will grow up damaged and doing all they can to become survivors of the horrific crimes perpetrated against them
Yet, as I see it, adults worldwide are totally at fault. We have let our children down. By burying our heads in the sand, we have forced children to carry these terrible burdens — life- and soul-destroying burdens. We can and MUST do more. I, for one, will not sit around and watch anymore kids go into this world uneducated in body safety. And I am calling upon our schools and parents worldwide to educate all kids; so they know, right from the first inappropriate touch, that it is wrong, and to tell someone and keep on telling until they are believed. Our duty of care to children is to educate and to believe. It can be as simple as that. All children have a right to a safe childhood. They have a right to a ‘childhood’, full stop. Their innocence should never be taken away merely because we failed to educate. Please join me by spreading the word to parents and schools to educate kids in body safety. Our children are relying on us to do so.