Archive for Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Something for which to be glad

January 10, 2001

There once was a woman, who following her tendency to save good household items "for later," rolled up a wool Oriental carpet she had inherited from her grandmother and stored it in the attic.

Years later, when her son was marrying, she decided to give it to him as a wedding gift. But when she brought the carpet downstairs and spread it across the floor, she saw that it was covered with moth holes.

She took the carpet to a shop that specialized in restoring antique carpets.

"You should have left it out in the open," the man said. "It's better to walk on it, to live with it than to put it away. When you roll it up and store it in the attic, the moths will destroy it it's too late to fix it now."

When last week the story unfolded about the volunteer youth group leader at the Tonganoxie United Methodist Church who was allegedly sexually abusing children, I thought about the Oriental carpet.

Not too many years ago, an incident like that would have been, like the carpet, hidden away. Experts in child psychology used to advise parents of sexually abused children to pretend it never happened.

That would be well and good if the effects of sexual abuse ended when the touching stopped.

But usually, the most long-lasting damage of sexual abuse is not the touching it's the guilt.

Children who have been sexually abused will most likely believe that it was their fault. They participated in activities that they may have suspected at the time were inappropriate, but the person initiating the sexual abuse was probably someone they and their parents knew and trusted, and so they went along with it. By the time they realized what was going on, it may have been too late. To them, the situation may have seemed inescapable, or larger than life.

This can affect the rest of their lives. The guilt, if the children go without counseling, may lead them to later act out in self-destructive ways.

Because sexual abuse of children is more common than most people think, stories like this touch many lives.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at least one out of five women and one out of 10 men were sexually abused during childhood.

Further, the AAP indicates that in eight out of 10 reported cases, the abuser is someone the child knows. Moreover, the abuser is often an authority figure whom the child trusts.

The good news is that today we know that out of sight doesn't mean out of mind, or out of harm.

With counseling, children can learn that they were not to blame. Gradually, the children will come to realize that they were sexually abused not because there was something wrong with them or bad about them, but merely because they were in the proximity of an adult who drastically misbehaved. They will learn that pedophiles can be experts at manipulating and controlling children.

In seeing the molester jailed and charged in court, the guilt feelings will again be assuaged this further enhances the realization by children that they were innocent victims to the whims of a perverted adult.

For years, there has been discussion that children may voice false claims of sexual abuse. That may be so. But every allegation warrants investigation.

On a local level, there are those who say the accused molester needs our sympathy and prayers. I'll leave those prayers to those who want to say them.

My prayers are of gratitude.

Gratitude for the teen-ager who confided in YongBo Lee, minister of the United Methodist Church.

Gratitude for YongBo Lee, who took swift action.

Gratitude for law enforcement and judicial systems that take seriously claims of sexual abuse.

Gratitude for the Kansas East Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is providing counseling for the youths and families ac-quainted with the accused offender.

Gratitude that the damage has been stopped.

The hero of this story is the teen-ager who made the initial report. I understand how it must have been difficult for him to talk about the situation, and from the bottom of my heart I thank him for his courage. His action not only opened the door for healing for himself and other youths who have been victimized, but also, he has likely spared countless other children who in the future might have been endangered.

Or, unlike the carpet stored too long in the attic, this time the problem's been brought to light before it was too late to be fixed.

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