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Greetings from all of us at Grounded and Family Talk. Our gratitude and appreciation are extended to each of you who made sacrificial contributions to these ministries as 2011 came to a close. We are continuing to do the work to which we are called, thanks to so many of you. Now the world has careened into a brand new year, with its hopes and dreams, anxieties and fears. The next 12 months promise to bring dramatic political and social change that will shape the foreseeable future.
In the hubbub of the year-end activities, I chose not to discuss disturbing family related news events that occurred through the month of December. I felt we all needed to concentrate on our own families and to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. It is time now to consider a tragic account of child sexual abuse that came to light in November, 2011, on the campus of Penn State University. It has relevance for all of us because of what is happening to many children of this generation. I need not go into great detail about the much-publicized Penn State disaster, except to say that a well-known PSU assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, allegedly sodomized and abused ten (or as many at 20) boys under his care.1 Even though Sandusky was observed performing some of these perverse acts, he was able to continue the criminal behavior for many years because the university took no action. Head Coach, Joe Paterno, and PSU President, Graham Spanier, were told about them, but they failed to discipline Sandusky or intervene to protect the boys.2 Now that the scandal has come to light, Paterno and Spanier have been fired and Sandusky has been formally charged with least 40 counts of child sex-abuse. Penn State University is reeling in disgrace with the revelation that the interest of its football program was allowed to trump the welfare of vulnerable children.
Sexual abuse is not only occurring regularly on the campuses of big-name universities, of course. Churches and other institutions have been implicated too. For example, Bob Allen, managing editor of the Associated Baptist Press, provided links to 130 separate Southern Baptist churches whose clergy were arrested, convicted or sued for sexual abuse of boys or girls over the past decade. Of these, only six pastors were the first to notify the police.3 The Roman Catholic Church was also rocked by incidences of priests who abused children sexually. Most of those heinous acts were performed by homosexual pedophiles.
The records of many public schools around the country also reveal scandals. 112 Connecticut public school teachers and coaches have lost their credentials due to sexual misconduct with students since 1992.4 They included a sex ring of five coaches at Southington High School who required sex from athletes playing on the championship girls basketball teams over a 20 year period.5 Nationally, the teaching credentials of 2,570 public school educators were “revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct” with students.6 The U.S. Department of Education estimates that more than 4.5 million students were subjected to sexual misconduct by public school employees between kindergarten and 12th grade.7 Similar accounts of sexual abuse of children have been reported by juvenile detention agencies. 2,370 of the perpetrators involved faculty and staff.8 Similar data were reported in foster care facilities.9
These accounts are illustrative of rampant child sex-abuse occurring in almost every dimension of culture. It is a national disgrace and explains why I am warning parents in my letter this month about the dangers posed to their children. Provided below is a question and answer interchange excerpted from my latest book, Bringing Up Girls, that may provide further counsel and advice.
Question: My daughter has a friend who has a single dad. They want to have a sleepover at her house. My daughter is eleven years old. I would like to know if it would be appropriate to let her go. I am more than willing to let them have a sleepover at my house anytime.
Answer: Except on occasions when you are sure that your child will be safe, I would not suggest that you allow your daughter—or your son—to spend the night in a home where there is not a mother you trust. The father in that situation may be a fine man, but he is not the only reason for caution. Remember that kids sometimes molest younger kids, as do older brothers and their friends. This is why I believe that the day for sleepovers has passed. There is just too much at stake to put children at risk in this way.
Sadly, the world has changed in the last few decades, and it is no longer a safe place for children. Pedophiles and child molesters are more pervasive than ever. That is why parents must be diligent to protect their kids every hour of the day and night. Some little tykes have actually been abducted from their bedrooms while their parents were in the house. The name of Polly Klaas comes to mind, the twelve-year-old girl who was assaulted and murdered after being taken from her home during a slumber party in 1993.10 Until you have dealt with little victims as I have and seen the pain in their eyes, you might not fully appreciate the devastation inflicted by molestation. It casts a long shadow on everything that follows, including future marital relationships. Therefore, parents have to think the unthinkable in every situation. The threat can come from anywhere—including neighbors, uncles, stepfathers, grandfathers, Sunday school teachers, coaches, music instructors, Scout leaders, and babysitters. Even public bathrooms can be dangerous today.
The state of Colorado, in a misguided effort to end what the legislators called discrimination, made it legal for cross-dressing men and male homosexuals to use women’s restrooms.11 Is that ridiculous or what? A little girl or a single woman can be using the facilities when, without warning, a man comes in unannounced. Can you imagine the terror and embarrassment a child could experience in that situation? Sadly, few people in Colorado have objected to the unconscionable law.
Question: What else can I do to protect my children?
Answer. You as a parent have to figure out how to shield your kids from danger without overprotecting them or making them fearful. That is called being between a rock and a hard place. You can begin by teaching your kids the difference between a “good touch” and a “bad touch,” urging them to never talk to strangers, and telling them to scream when approached, etc. At the same time, however, you must be careful not to make them feel that you are fearful or that their loved ones and teachers are trying to hurt them. Shepherding them between these two harmful alternatives requires great skill and wisdom.
You should know that pedophiles are usually adept at drawing children into their clutches. They tend to gravitate toward malls, pizza restaurants, amusement parks, and even chat rooms where unsupervised boys and girls hang out. They can spot a kid who is lonely in a matter of minutes, and they offer them the “love” and attention they crave. Once these creeps have established a relationship with them, the abuse is easy and lasts an average of seven years. Amazingly, the children usually don’t tell anyone about the abuse out of fear and intimidation. Some pedophiles become so masterful at this technique that they abuse, on average, 280 children in a lifetime.12
Don’t let your boy or girl be one of them! Protect them, and meet the needs that make them vulnerable!
Question: What about leaving your kids with babysitters? Is that wise?
Answer: I think it is relatively safe to leave children with mature adolescent girls, although they should be told they cannot invite their boyfriends to come over. I would not recommend leaving kids of either sex with teenage boys since there is so much going on sexually within males at that age. Although there might be no problem most of the time, you must do all that you can to make sure that the devastation of child abuse does not occur even once in your daughter’s
Question: My husband works in law enforcement and has several days off work in a row. I work full time Monday through Friday. Therefore, it is my husband who volunteers in our kids’ classrooms. A little girl wants to come to our house for a sleepover with my daughter during a time when only my daughter and my husband will be home. The mom of the other girl does not have an issue with it. However, I do not think this is appropriate. What do you think?
Answer: The motives of your husband are probably entirely honorable. But once again, I think it would not be wise to allow the little girl to sleep over. The potential for disaster, though unlikely, is just too great. I would always err on the side of not only protecting the child, but also preventing any damage to your husband’s reputation. Perhaps I am being overprotective here, but it is much better to be safe than sorry.
Question: Why has pedophilia become such a serious problem? Are there really more cases of child sexual abuse now than in the past, or is the reporting mechanism just better?
Answer: Reporting systems are more accurate, but the incidence of molestation has increased exponentially. It has resulted primarily from the proliferation of obscenity on the Internet, including illegal child pornography. Pedophiles try to obtain DVDs or photographs of nude children, taken while they are being assaulted if possible. Those images can then be sold or traded to other child molesters.
I am well acquainted with this tragedy because of my service on the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography from 1985 to 1986. During that time, I witnessed materials from the FBI that I will never be able to forget, including photographs of an eight-year-old boy taken while he was being murdered. I can’t get those images out of my mind. During that same meeting, a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Barry Lynn, who is now executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the commission it was the position of the ACLU that child pornography should not be produced, but once it exists, there should be no restriction on its sale or distribution.13
If the ACLU had had its wretched way, a child who was being horribly molested under the watchful eye of a camera could do nothing to stop those images from being sold on the open market for the rest of his or her life. The most terrible experience of a child’s lifetime would become a pornographer’s gold mine. The commissioners were aghast at this testimony.
You must understand this: obscenity is highly addictive and progressive in nature. What begins as an attraction to soft-core porn gradually changes the individual who lusts over it, leading to ever harder and more perverse obsessions. Thus, porn addicts are transformed from having what might be called “normal” sexuality to a passion for increasingly perverse material, such as heterosexual and homosexual violence, the abuse of women, bestiality, necrophilia (sex with the dead), and very commonly today, child pornography. This is where the perversions often originate. It is what led serial killer Ted Bundy, whom I interviewed seventeen hours before his execution in the Florida State Penitentiary, to murder more than thirty women and girls. The last victim before his arrest and conviction was a twelve-year-old girl whom he killed and left in a pigsty.14
Though the media rarely reveals the connection, pornography is almost always involved in cases of abduction and murder of boys and girls. This is why these horrendous crimes are occurring more commonly today. When the facts are known, obscene materials are typically found in the houses or garages of the perpetrators. What this means is that moms and dads must be eternally vigilant in protecting their kids. Let me say it one more time. I recommend that you take no unnecessary chances, whether during sleepovers, in the mall, in public restrooms, in neighbors’ houses, or on the way home from school.
I hope this brief consideration of sexual abuse will be helpful to parents in protecting their vulnerable boys and girls. There are few responsibilities in child rearing that outrank this task.
In light of this important parental duty, may I suggest that fathers and mothers follow the following five critical action points:
1. Control your children’s environment, where possible (where they are, when and with whom).
2. Know the people who play significant roles in your children’s lives.
3. Create a safe and open communication channel with your children. Talk to them about the dangers out there – it’s not just men or strangers; it could be teachers, pastors, babysitters, neighbors, relatives, . . . Encourage them to tell you what is happening in their lives. Don’t have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” family.
4. Acknowledge and oppose the contributing factors in our culture that feed victimization: pornography, the devaluation of human life, compromised ethical and moral standards, and a straying from faith and church.
5. Remember that Family Talk is here for you. If you have questions, please call our toll-free line, email us or engage with us on Facebook.
Again, thanks for your financial support of Family Talk in December. Your continued partnership throughout the year will help us in our work for the wellbeing of the family.
Your friend in Christ,
James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
President and Founder
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Thank you for your commitment not only to the family but for your patriotism and concern for our country and having the courage to speak out. Glad to hear you’ve recovered from your fall.
The Dobson Library
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