I am happy to announce today that my first book 8 Ways to Create their Fate: Protecting the Sexual Innocence of Children in Youth-Serving Organizations is available. The official release date is April 14, 2015, just in time for Child Abuse Awareness and Sexual Assault Prevention month.
Seven years ago, my daughter disclosed that she was being sexually abused by my ex-husband. In the process of standing up to protect and support her, I had to face my own abuse at the hands of a modeling teacher after thirty-three years of silence. You might expect that as a survivor of child sexual abuse, I would have known how to protect my daughter, but the truth is, my silence enabled abuse to repeat itself in my family, the same way that silence enables child molesters to work unimpeded in youth-serving organizations across the country and around the world.
The reason I wrote this book was to encourage you to talk and give you the words, lots of words, to get you started. Not everyone will agree with the words I have shared and that’s okay. Not every organization will be able to implement each idea, even if they agree with them, because of obstacles that must be worked through over time. But if you are willing to engage in the process of debate, taking what I have written and using it to create open conversation within your organization and with the families you serve, I will have achieved my goal, and together, we will have broken the silence that enables child molesters to hurt our children.
I have spent the last seven years learning everything I could about the child sexual abuse pandemic. In addition to reading hundreds of books, research papers, and news articles, I have formally interviewed hundreds of experts, representing sixteen countries and every facet of this pandemic. I have also had the opportunity to personally support over two hundred survivors and parents of survivors through weekly support groups and I have spoken informally to thousands more. My discussions with survivors were by far the most valuable. Actually, they are invaluable because survivors are uniquely qualified to teach us how abuse happens and what adults in their lives could have done to protect them. Looking forward, that translates into a deep understanding of what you can do to protect the kids in your care.
I have trained adults representing every role in the community, including parents, grandparents, foster parents, educators, police officers, attorneys, pediatricians, nurses, doctors, pastors, youth leaders, coaches, dance instructors, day care staff, afterschool program staff, therapists, social workers, college students, and teens. In my experience, the vast majority of them are hungry to understand how child sexual abuse happens and what they can do to stop it. I believe people want to do the right thing, if they only knew what that was.
So I have synthesized thousands of survivor stories and validated them with research as well as the testimony of offenders through the expert work of Carla van Dam, Anna Salter, Robin Sax, and Michele Elliott to bring you this clear and concise guide on how to create an environment where child molesters virtually cannot succeed without being caught and therefore won’t want to work.
We will never stop every incidence of abuse, but I do believe with all my heart that child sexual abuse is predictable and preventable when we surround children with knowledgeable and outspoken adults and we all play a part in the solution. If you are involved in a youth-serving organization and you are one of those people who would like to do the right thing if you only knew what that was, this book clearly defines your part in the resolution of this pandemic. It presents an extensive set of suggestions that each serve to better protect children. You will likely face obstacles along the way whether it is a union contract, lack of funding, or simply cultural resistance. My hope is that you keep your eyes focused on the kids and what you can do for them instead of letting what you can’t do take the wind out of your sails. Every step forward decreases risk.
Whether you are the leader of a youth-serving organization looking to start or enhance your child sexual abuse prevention initiative, an individual staff member, or a parent, this book provides you the foundation for change and the words to break the silence that enables child molesters. I encourage you to read it thoroughly, use it diligently, and share it freely.