We are well served in our fine community to be the beneficiary of more than our fair share of community stewards. There are many who dedicate tireless hours to those victimized by predator or circumstance. Among them is Toby Stark, executive director of Chaucie’s Place – a Hamilton County facility dedicated to child advocacy focusing on the prevention of child abuse. Ever one to evangelize for the work of her organization, Ms. Stark convinced me to participate in a training program, Stewards of Children, aimed at educating “parents and any adults who work with children” about child sexual abuse prevention.
In spite of my trepidation that the evening-long class would lead to difficult emotional moments as folks tell of the kind of suffering perpetrated upon them as kids (which it does), I was greeted by a group of 20 or so adults eager to learn and help this indescribably worthy cause. The thoughtful coursework is divided into three sessions, each a video followed by workbooks and then discussion. The empirical statistics are breathtaking. And, behind these numbers are people, families and youngsters, all seeking meaning from meaningless and brutal acts.
Lisa Ridder, leader of the session, maneuvered the delicate topics with both deftness and respect, instilling a sense of awareness and urgency without creating suspicion or panic. Most abusers are trusted by the children and their families. They are relatives, teachers, coaches, religious and youth leaders. Too often, the institutions protect their employees and not those tikes in their care. Yet with a modicum of education, sensitivity and engagement, we can significantly reduce the incidence of these crimes and increase the fear in the perpetrator. Edmund Burke is attributed with saying, “Evil prevails when good men fail to act.” Could we add, “When we fail to bring evil into the light?”