According to the Department of Justice, 60% of all children are victimized (in varying forms) before adulthood. Although child sexual abuse (CSA) receives more press coverage and attention, it is only a small slice of the potential range of abuse that children may face. Abuse can range from maltreatment or neglect to physical or sexual abuse. It is exposure to multiple forms of abuse that contributes to poly-victimization.
The Boy Scouts of America recently hosted a National Youth Protection Symposium in Arlington, Virginia for all youth-serving organizations. Attendees included representatives from churches, service clubs, youth sports teams, private camps, and any other interested parties who wanted to learn more about how to recognize and prevent this insidious plague from keeping their good faith efforts in working with children from being misused.
According to the ACE studies, individuals with a score of one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) increases their risks of suffering from a number of physical or emotional illnesses, both as children and later on as adults. Attendees learned about the individual and family risk factors that can contribute to the abuse of children and youth. They also learned about the family and community protective factors that help children and youth avoid abuse and develop greater resilience if abused. Several of the protective factors are:
- Nurturing parenting skills
- Stable family relationships
- Household rules and child monitoring
- Parental employment
- Adequate housing
- Access to health care and social services
- Caring adults outside the family who can serve as role models or mentors
- Communities that support parents and take responsibility for preventing abuse
Youth serving organizations (YSO’s) were encouraged to adapt and help promote early recognition of poly-victimization, because abusers are already learning to target individuals suffering from poly-victimization as they are easier targets.
Several speakers highlighted the need for youth to have at least one supportive parent or adult that they can look to and trust to create resiliency. The “Story of Chad” is a video interview of a young adult, talking about the effects of his abuse as a child and witnessing the abuse of a sibling and his mother. It also highlights the impact of one positive influence in his life and the difference it has made.
Several sessions also included discussions of encouraging youth to create a “Personal Safety Net” which identifies five trusted adults or sources they can go to. They then asked the question, “Is your YSO a part of their personal safety net?”
One of the most compelling speakers was Michael Bourke – Chief, Behavioral Analysis Unit, for the U.S. Marshals Service. Mr. Bourke helped to quantify the levels of concern we all face.
- There are approximately 16 million pedophiles in the U.S.
- A recent study that showed over 2.2 million IP addresses downloaded 100 or more images of prepubescent child pornography in a single month.
Mr. Bourke then advocated that YSO’s focus on “How to educate people…so they know what to do when faced with or witness abuse…” He stated that prevention, early recognition and intervention are key to minimizing the impacts of the threats children face. He also shared a profile of abusers who typically are…
2) College educated,
3) Can be married or divorced,
4) Typically, with no prior arrests.
He also shared some additional chilling statistics. The average offender goes 13.4 yrs. before they are caught and that 84% of victims never report to police.
We want all Scout leaders to be prepared and to know what to do, especially if they can help a Scout avoid abuse or be willing to take the steps necessary to protect a Scout if you think they are currently being abused. That is why taking youth protection training is so important to us and should be important to you. If you have any questions at all, please visit BSA’s Youth Protection website or take the Youth Protection Training today…for yourself and for the Scouts you serve!
Contributed by LDS Church Risk Management Division