As I have been reading all of the news about the sexual abuse at Penn State, Syracuse and others, I see a lot of anger at a few individuals who do not act or did not do enough. In his recent article in the Huffington Post, Larry Cohen of the Prevention Institute clearly states that we have to consider what institutional changes needs to take place to prevent sexual abuse:
Of course, we all know that it is not a child’s job to protect themselves from sexual abuse and the predators that perpetuate it; it is the job of the adults and institutions that surround him or her. It is not one or two individuals who have failed the survivors of child rape and sexual assault at Penn State, Syracuse University, and in our churches and schools across the country. We are failing our children. We have created a system that often colludes with perpetrators, supports them and creates a norm that allows sexual assault and child rape to continue. And by blaming individuals alone, we lose the opportunity to upend that system and create policies and systems that protect our children, instead of perpetuating harm.
I agree with Larry when he says that “we must re-examine and revise policies and practices to not only ensure reporting but promote a climate that insists on the safety and health of our children in the first place.” As I said when I spoke last month in Idaho,we need to go beyond describing the problem of sexual abuse, we have to promote the solutions. Not only the individual solutions, but community-wide prevention and policy solutions.