With the report from Penn State’s internal investigation of the Sandusky affair released this week, we’re all reminded once again of children’s vulnerability to abuse. Yet, as important as the reporting about this horrific situation is, there are two facts that are continually reported that can cloud our vision about the nature of child abuse.
The first fact is that most of Sandusky’s victims were from broken homes, where no father was present, and the economic challenges were great. The second fact is that the abuse was the result of a known public figure swooping in and taking advantage of these children living in difficult situations.
Both of these facts are true, but this cannot lead us to believe that this is the most common scenario for child abuse. Because the reality is that abuse happens in every corner of our society including to those kids who come from families that look like, on the surface, that they have it all together. And secondly, the perpetrator, more often or not, is a family member or close friend, not a public figure.
We know this to be true at SpringHill because nearly every week during summer camp our staff discover campers who have been or are being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by family members or close family friends. They’re from rich families and poor families, and families from the city and families from the suburbs. It happens within families who attend church faithfully and those who’ve never entered a church building in their lives. The harsh reality is – where there are children, abuse is always a possibility because kids, being who they are, are by nature vulnerable to predators.
Fortunately, because SpringHill is a safe place, kids feel the freedom to share with our staff their experiences, including many who’ve never shared their horrors with anyone before doing so at camp. This allows us to do what Penn State failed to do – first, report these situations to the appropriate authorities, and second to assure these young victims receive the support they need to move forward and ultimately be healed.
So let’s not be lulled into believing child abuse only happens in certain segments of our society. Instead let’s always diligently look for signs of abuse and then, when we see them, to have the courage to do what’s necessary to protect all our children from these horrific evils.