I would wager a guess that my Saturday morning started out unlike any of your Saturday mornings.
This past Saturday, I attended a diocesan program titled “Protecting God’s Children” because I will be volunteering at Flora and Kate’s school.
I honestly thought it was going to be a program on volunteering.
Not so much. “Protecting God’s Children” is a program to educate people about child molestation and abuse. It is… heavy. Victims and perpetrators are portrayed (I honestly hope that they were all actors; it was not made clear in the video. Aside from the experts, no real names were used.) Different kinds of abuse are covered — yes, including abuse by clergy.
Lest you think this was all about scaring parents, let me explain that topics covered included common myths about child sexual abusers (hint: it’s not that scary guy lurking in the bushes; it’s probably someone whose first name you know), and also, in the second half of the program, talked about how to spot predators, spot a child being abused, and how to prevent the former from taking advantage of the latter in the first place.
“Protecting God’s Children” was developed in 2003, and put into practice in schools and other Catholic institutions in 2004. In the Pittsburgh diocese alone, 40,000 people have gone through it. I was kind of impressed by this. I was also impressed by our facilitator — a mom and a CCD teacher at her parish. She talked openly about a very difficult subject, and was also able to get us discussing it. (I was probably there with about 30 other people: moms, dads, grandparents, an athletic trainer — who was 22, and didn’t have children herself — among others.)
Also, lest you think it’s ironic that the Catholic church promotes this program, let me point out that among clergy in the United States, fewer than 1% are pedophiles or child abusers. (A few more facts here, if you’re interested.) (Also, an estimated rate of pedophilia in the general population is not known for some reasons listed here.)
Anyhoo, it was sobering. I went home and gave both my girls big hugs. I have to teach them to protect themselves, obviously. But it was really good to know how I can not only protect them, but help protect other children. Just by being aware.
“…Jesus said, Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” — Matthew 19:14
As a side note, it’s a bad idea to search the Megan’s Law website for your area while eating lunch at your desk. Just sayin’.