Unfortunately, we live in a world where it seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing about a new sexual abuse scandal. A recent article in the Boston Globe explains how Arthur Peekel, a former admissions officer at the respected Phillips Exeter prep school, is being fined and registered as a sex offender because of the sexual assault he committed against a prospective student more than 40 years ago. The victim sat in the courtroom and recounted that the abuse “ended his childhood… left him uneasy with intimacy and even affection…” and that he was “beleaguered by a persistent sense of self-doubt”.
Indirect perpetrators should be held accountable as well: an article in the New York Times from April discusses how recently deceased Chuck Wielgus, who was known as a top official in American swimming, faced troubled times during the end of his life because of his mishandling of accusations of sexual abuse committed by his coaches. In 2010, formal complaints and lawsuits were filed which accused some of his coaches of sexually abusing underage female swimmers. Abuse victims claimed that Mr. Wielgus dismissed the complaints, and in some cases, protected the coaches or silently transferred them without any repercussions. Similarly, another recent article in the New York Times discusses how in Berlin, a culture of silence allowed for an environment in which at least 547 children were abused at a Catholic music school. The sexual abuse ranged from “leering looks or verbal abuse” to “the forced consummation of pornography, unwanted sexual touching to forced sex”.
As a parent, it can feel overwhelming to know that these types of predators exist in today’s world. However, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), self-described as the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, provides a list of certain actions that you can take to help protect your child from sexual assault. Talk to them about their day, and really pay attention to what they tell you, especially when they discuss their interactions with other people. Be highly selective when choosing schools and programs for your child. Become knowledgeable about the warning signs of child sexual abuse, which include actions such as bed wetting, inappropriate sexual knowledge, trouble in school, changes in hygiene, and returning to regressive behaviors such as thumb sucking. Teach your child about boundaries and make sure they know that no one has a right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable.
If you or someone you know have been a victim of sexual abuse at an organization, please call my office immediately. It is imperative to act on this matter swiftly, and an experienced attorney will help you navigate this sensitive topic with much more ease.