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Stopping the cycle of child sex abuse

Many stories of child sexual abuse have a tragically similar arc. The perpetrator, often in a position of authority with access to children, was able to sexually abuse children for years or even decades because victims didn't have the opportunity to come forward. In many cases, victims who spoke up were not believed, and others failed to speak up because they knew that skepticism awaited them.

One of the most recent examples here in Pennsylvania is a 67-year-old former teacher who worked for nearly 30 years at The Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. At least 11 former students have admitted to being abused by the man between 1970 and 1998. He is also facing criminal charges for allegedly sexually assaulting four boys at a summer camp in Massachusetts.

When cases like this come to light, it is often because a victim or an adult with suspicions gets the courage to report the abuser to authorities. Upon investigation, authorities often discover that the behavior has been going on for years. This emboldens other victims to speak up.

To be clear, failing to report the abuser is never something that victims should be shamed or blamed about. The emotional trauma associated with child sex abuse makes it very difficult for many victims to process what happened to them. Instead, the onus is on school administrators, church leaders and other adults to demand transparency and to speak up when something doesn't seem right.

Most child sex abusers who put themselves in positions of access will not stop abusing children on their own. They must be stopped by vigilant adults willing to advocate on behalf of victims who may not be able to find their own voice.

Source: Philly.com, "Former Episcopal Academy students come forth with allegations of sex abuse decades ago," Mari A. Schaefer, April 26, 2015

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