Sunday, December 5, 2010


(Postcard by Hayden Kay)

From GenerationFIVE:
Our goal of ending child sexual abuse cannot be realized while other systems of oppression are allowed to continue. In fact, systems of oppression and child sexual abuse have an interdependent relationship: a power-over system that benefits some at the expense of others and uses violence, creates the conditions for child sexual abuse (i.e. gender inequality, class exploitation, racism, violence and threat for difference), while in turn the prevalence of child sexual abuse fosters behaviors (obedience to authority, silence, disempowerment, shame) that prevent people from organizing effectively to work for liberation, healing and change systemic forms of violence.

'Radical simply means grasping things at the root.' ~Angela Davis.

Generation FIVE works at the roots of child sexual abuse and holds a vision of liberation, justice and sustainability for all of our futures.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. For each of these children, there is an offender and the affected family and community surrounding them. For each circumstance of abuse, there is also circle of people who can play a part in allowing or preventing abuse.

It is estimated that only 10-20% of CSA gets reported through our public systems. Still, in Public Health terms these numbers are epidemic. This means they are impacting the general population in such high numbers that it is a major pubic health issue. When we look at the number of children and families affected and the number of offenders, we have to start asking different questions. There are not just a few 'bad' people sexually abusing children, the behavior is wide-spread. This is not solely individual mental health issue. We need to ask questions that go beyond the individual to our communities and broader society to find both the causes and solutions to child sexual abuse.

To address child sexual abuse, we need to look at the bigger picture…the social norms in which it is happening. By social norms we mean the beliefs and practices regarding power, sexuality, the ideas about children and ownership, etc. and then the institutions that perpetuate these ideas and practices. We need both an individual and systemic understanding of CSA to be effective in our response and prevention strategies.

Here are some new questions for us to consider:

What do the high numbers of victim/survivors and offenders of CSA tell us about our family and community beliefs and practices? What do we pass on that let's child sexual abuse continue generation to generation?

What is it in our social norms and institutions that creates this many offenders, survivors and bystanders to child sexual abuse?

What are our public systems and institutions missing- so that child sexual abuse rates are not decreasing? What mistakes are we repeating?

We are living in a broader social context that teaches power-over relations, private ownership (parents/family) of children, a dismissal of children's accounts (legal), mixed messages and little education about human sexuality (it is bad, shame based, and it is used to sell us everything from cars to deodorant), and the ongoing mixing of sex and violence. We are not taught to address pain and trauma deeply, but rather mask symptoms or blame the individual for their distress. Child sexual abuse is about having power over another person and using that power sexually. The norms that allow for this behavior are sadly, ever-present in our society.
To this I will add:
  1. Those who abuse children in any fashion were themselves abused as children. It's a learned behavior, not innate to human beings.
  2. Abuse takes many forms: The ownership of children by adults; gender conditioning; racist conditioning; poverty or denial of basic needs for class reasons; teaching children g*d will send them to hell for any reason; neglect; ridicule; as well as what we traditionally call abuse.
  3. To stop abuse we will need to redefine how we raise children and create family on a fundamental level. We cannot allow the Right's definitions to continue to damage further generations.
  4. The numbers mean we are all in close contact with child abuse: Our own families, our friends. and/or children we know are contending with it right now. Overwhelmingly it is done by people who claim to love or actually do love that child and are in close, regular contact with her/him. Strangers are not the problem.
  5. The overwhelming risk of abuse for any child comes from a man or boy close to them. This is NOT because men and boys are inherently abusive -- it is a direct result of male gender conditioning which demands emotional dissociation, demial of healing outlets, and the right/mandate to project upset onto others perceived as lesser status. Masculinity is an incomplete version of inhumanity that fosters abuse: Not maleness, but the rigid, culturally created concept of masculinity. To rehabilitate this concept to the point where it is no longer toxic will mean restoring to it all the humanity which renders it indistinguishable from femininity. Ergo, it has no future in a free and equal world.
  6. People can and do heal from child abuse. All the time, no matter how bad it was.
  7. Breaking silence is always a first step. The corollary to that is bearing witness helps repair the world.

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