Weekend Update: The Oh, Yuck Edition

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’.

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6 thoughts on “Weekend Update: The Oh, Yuck Edition

  1. Of course the FIRST thing I did was go to the website and found two within blocks of my house (AND an elementary school!) I will be sharing those pictures and some big kid follow up on the stranger danger talk tonight.

    • Hm, it seems like you could let someone know about that. I know there’s a definite restriction about how close these guys (or gals) can live to a school.

      It’s a fine line to walk, and remember it’s not necessarily strangers. Teachers, coaches, dads of other kids. I mean, yeah, don’t forget the “don’t ride with someone you don’t know even if he/she says he/she knows me.” But in the majority of the cases of abuse just like with rape or assault the victim knows his/her assaulter.

      And, good luck! Sometimes being a parent is SCARY.

  2. Good Lord (pun intended?), how scary! What were the best takeaways from the presentation? (Don’t I feel all corporate using the word “takeaway” and all that.)

    • The best takeaways: look for someone who is more comfortable around children than adults chooses to “hang with the kids”. Also, someone who tells inappropriate jokes around them. (that’s two of five.) As far as spotting a child, it’s kind of things you expect: changes in behavior, sudden lack of hygiene. Also: listen. Only about 5% of the accusations from kids about sexual abuse are untrue. If your child any child talks about an adult acting inappropriately, touching inappropriately, they most likely aren’t lying or exaggerating.

  3. All the people in the video were real. I had to go to that to because I volunteer at my church. I have to admit I was petrified for a few hours after the class. I was convinced any adult that talked to Elianna was going to hurt her, but then I calmed down. It was great to attend because now I have a better idea of what to look out for and hopefully with more people being vigilant, these predators won’t harm our children anymore. And get the help they need, because I do believe it can be a sickness.

    • See, my strategy for keeping tears at bay while watching those videos was to think, “They’re just actors. They’re just actors.” I mean, hello hormonal pregnant woman here! The boy who was abused by a camp counselor, and the girl abused by her priest — they broke my heart. I would have sobbed unless I told myself they were actors. So, yeah.

      And I agree that going through a class like that can make you totally paranoid! “It can be anyone!” But, once you get through the second video, you realize it’s NOT everyone, and you know what to look for and what to do. The programs equips you with the tools to deal with the issue. I think EVERYONE involved with children whether or not they are in the Catholic church/school system can benefit.

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