Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lessons And Thoughts From The 2017 Moore Center Symposium

My First Symposium... Via Youtube

In case you did not know, I watched the entire symposium via Youtube, and for my sake, I am glad I did. I was able to pause, go back, and rehear things that I found interesting and catch nuances that I missed the first time. Perhaps I have been missing from the academic world for too long, but I would almost certainly miss things if I had been sitting in the audience. Therefore, I am very grateful to the Moore Center for generously putting their symposium on Youtube.

Three Big Ideas

To me, there were three big ideas shared at the symposium:

  • Current policies are failing, and failing hard if you take any kind of a close look at the research.
  • We need to do a better job at outreaching to those that share the goal of prevention as well as the general public, so that sexual abuse can be prevented and handled effectively if it does happen. 
  • Most sex offenders have some kind of trauma in their childhoods, so paying more attention to children from difficult backgrounds can aid prevention just as much as a formal intervention.
These three ideas were present throughout the symposium, and were illustrated in a variety of ways via a variety of new research presentations and discussions. 

Two Opportunities For The Average Person

There are two great opportunities that the average person can take (yes, you, random person that just stumbled onto my blog, and you, person that subscribed to my posts).

The first is seeing the documentary Untouchable, which does an even more fantastic job than I can at telling a story. I could tell you my story, but it will almost certainly be limited forever to the written word, and those stories have limits. Untouchable can tell a story that I cannot: The story of a father whose daughter was abused and what he did about it, the story of a daughter who was abused and what she did about it, and the stories of those whose lives were affected by what this father-daughter duo did. While Untouchable does weave boring facts and statistics into the stories it seeks to tell, I can promise that it will be the most thought-provoking 104 minutes you will spend watching a film.

The second is learning more about the subject of child sexual abuse, why you should learn more, and how you can help end child sexual abuse once and for all. Maybe you were sexually abused, and are working through the pain it caused you. Maybe someone you know was sexually abused, and you want to know how to help them through their pain. Maybe you know someone who was sexually abused, and you just do not yet know it. Regardless, sexual abuse has affected everyone. The trauma of abuse is not limited to just the one in four girls and one in six boys that experience it before they turn 18 years old, it also affects the friends, neighbors, and family members of those children. That trauma needs to be a thing of the past, and the only way we can make that happen is by learning about the issue, learning about what we are currently doing to solve it, and coming up with new ideas that are based in research.

One Thing Advocates Need To Do

Tell stories. You need to share your story (and yes, I realize I have not yet shared the full brunt of my own story, and for many reasons, that must wait a few months). People need a person, a face, a name that they can identify with. They need you to paint them a picture of how child sexual abuse has affected you, and they need to know what you think can help solve the epidemic. They need to see that the issue of sexual abuse does not need to be scary and that anyone can tackle it.

Zero People Are Unaffected By This Issue

I touched on this in one of the two opportunities: If you were not directly affected by sexual abuse, you know someone who was. Maybe they are your best friend. Maybe it was a spouse, a brother, a sister, a mother, or a father. Maybe it was an uncle, or that guy you play tennis with. Whether they have said anything or not does not matter, because most victims take years to talk about it, if they do at all. The fear and the stigma drives this issue under the rug, and that is where it thrives. By realizing that we all know someone who has faced this issue, we can help shine a light on this dark and scary subject.

Why Does The University of Minnesota Not Have A Sexual Abuse Prevention Division Of Some Kind?

Yes, I learned the other day by calling the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health that they do not have any division or organization that addresses child sexual abuse. They have a program in human sexuality, but that is not nearly the same thing. I think the University of Minnesota needs to step to the plate, and for the next few weeks, I will be determining what it might take to make that happen. Oh, of course that project is bigger than I am. Yes, I am idealistic in thinking they care about some guy with a weird pseudonym. Maybe you can help me succeed in convincing them why it is needed. Just try not to steal my idea before I get the chance to implement it!

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