Letter: Preventing Future Abuse

To the Editor:

In response to recent events in Orange County, we at Safeline would like to extend our support and provide information to the community. Safeline is a non-profit organization that serves survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Orange and Upper Windsor counties. We offer a toll-free 24/7 hotline (800-639-7233) among other services. We encourage you to call us, anytime, to get further information or to receive emotional support. When violence and abuse occur, the entire community is affected. It is common for memories of abuse to be triggered by these events, and we are here to listen and support.

Our thoughts are with Bradford and surrounding towns in the wake of the recent charges filed against Brian Musty, a coach at Oxbow Union High School. An incident like this is confusing, angering, and leaves us unsure of how to react, who to blame, and how to prevent it from happening again. It is important to know the facts. In over 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is an adult known to the child; an adult the child trusts, respects and has been told to obey. Though we want to point the finger to something easy, we can only blame the perpetrator, as well as our culture that veils sexuality in secrecy and shame. Parents, school administrators, community members and children cannot blame themselves for not preventing the abuse. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse work hard at gaining everyone’s trust, and it is often hard to detect their motives. While there can be preventative systems put in place by schools and other programs, it is important that we focus on what can be done now and in the future, and not spend time focusing on what wasn’t done to prevent the abuse. What we can do is make sure, as adults, we are accessible to our children, and that we listen to and believe them. We can speak up when an adult’s behavior makes us uncomfortable. We can teach our children the correct names for their body parts, and lead by example that it is OK to talk about our bodies and sexuality (this makes adults more nervous than kids!). We must set the tone for our children, and lift the veil of secrecy that has protected perpetrators of sexual abuse for so long.

If you have questions or concerns or if the recent events have brought up painful memories, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-639-7233, day or night. You are not alone.

Marina Carleton

Executive Director

Safeline Inc.