Is it just easier for us to create bogeymen than face harsh realities?

In the ’80s, it was the Satanic Panic, as if roving devil worshipers were terrorizing small towns and kidnapping children. Closer to home, we experienced that wave of almost mania about worldwide child sex trafficking, which we learned was largely inspired by Q-Anon and other online bad actors as a way to take some of the spotlight away from racial justice protests.

Sex trafficking is a huge problem, and it’s something federal and local law enforcement work against every day, but is it the main thing that harms our children? Not even close. The most likely person to harm a child is someone the family knows or someone in the family.

Most of us probably realize this on some level and many have experienced it. Is it stigma or shame that makes us choose not to face it?

And in how many of these stories do we learn that children did say something, only to have adults they should have been able to trust not report it? Too many. We saw it a couple of years ago in Perry. We saw it within the last few months in Ninnekah. We see it playing out on the national stage with the brave gymnasts who have come forward. Accusations were dismissed. People either didn’t want to believe that the person they knew could do this, they chose not to believe or they were worried more about the institutions being damaged.

The thing is, there are things we can do to prevent child abuse. We are legally obligated to report abuse.

We have to make sure we’re listening to children when they say something is wrong, and asking questions when they say they don’t want to go to a relative’s house. Tell them that adults should not have secrets just for them. Make sure they know good touch vs. bad touch. And, teaching that body autonomy in children isn’t just some new age philosophy, it has pragmatic applications and affection shouldn’t be forced. Monitor online activity.

It’s hard to fight things we don’t face.

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