Monday, September 16, 2013

Hearing the Voices

For generations past, the voices of the abused have been silenced behind closed doors. They were the muffled screams or sobs of victims or, after the fact, hushed whispers between devastated siblings or friends. Often, the voices were locked away as memories, never allowed the relief of release. Child sexual abuse was seldom revealed or acknowledged, whether from shame, fear of not being believed or in efforts to protect the perpetrators.

But those voices have lingered in memories and in the damage done to the lives of the victims. They haven’t gone away. They’ve been waiting in the shadows of time, needing to be heard, needing to be validated, needing to find strength with others, saying, “No more.”

While the silence is being shattered all around the world with an avalanche of disclosures started by the rock slide of revelations of clergy abuses in 2002, Australia has taken a huge step forward by funding a $277.9 million dollar “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.” Starting this week, it will examine the conduct of all major institutions that have the responsibility of looking after children. Scouts Australia, the Salvation Army, the YMCA and the Catholic Church are among the first to be targeted. According to ABC News, few are likely to be spared scrutiny.

The establishment of the royal commission came a year after it was discovered that a paedophile had been given trusted roles involving children. Steven Larkins had been one of the nation’s most senior leaders in the area of child protection. Those who knew and worked with him were dumbfounded to learn of how he rose to trusted roles.

The commission’s chief, Janette Dines, says, “We believe the public will be shocked to begin to learn just how difficult life has been for people who have experienced child sexual abuse in an institution....We’ve had an overwhelming response - 5,000 have called the royal commission and at least 2,000 of those have expressed interest in coming forward and talking to the royal commissioner.” The work of the commission is expected to be a “nation-changing event.”

The ways institutions usually handled allegations of sexual misconduct are undergoing radical changes around the world. Awareness of abuse—and how allegations are handled—has fundamentally changed since the Catholic Church’s crisis erupted.

David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, claims* that many institutions are now run by people with modern attitudes about the effects of abuse who are not afraid to confront painful issues that were once hushed up. “Having more women in leadership makes a difference, as they may be more sensitive in handling these episodes, supporting the victims and encouraging other people to come forward.”

Marci Hamilton, a professor of Law and one of the United States’ foremost critics of how religious groups handle abuse, was recently quoted* as saying, “Change is happening, but also the pace of change is quickening. State legislators are more educated. The public is more knowledgeable.”

While most institutions are now aware of the importance of having protective standards, policies and procedures in place to ensure the protection of the children in their care, accessing the most effective procedures to implement is critical.

The key lies in preventing incidents of abuse before they need to be “handled.” That’s where the WKI ® “Plan to Protect™” comes in. Its policies have become the recognized standard for abuse prevention and detection. Individuals and organizations not yet taking advantage of the assistance available to protect kids, can access the “Plan to Protect™” at

*The Rockland County News, New York, Sept. 14, 2013 article by Gary Stern and Mareesa Nicosia

©Diane Roblin-Lee, Sept. 15, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013


It’s not fun standing before a group of strangers telling about how I lived with a child molester for 38 years, knowing absolutely nothing about his dark thoughts, re-entrance into pornography or secret life of victimizing two young girls. Every time I speak, I have to unscrew the jar that holds memories that shattered my family. They come tumbling out and I have to grab them and force them to stand, exposed, before the crowd in all their shame. I point to them and say, “Look at what happened to my family – don’t let it happen to yours.” And then I tell them what I have learned about how to keep kids safe.

As I stand alone behind the podium, my words reach out to each unknown person and I wonder what parts of their hearts I am touching. Are they victims, hiding the secrets of their past in the shadows of their minds? Are they moms, wondering if the nice men who have been so helpful with their kids, are actually grooming them for perverse plans? Are they wives, wondering about the dynamics of their families?

Finally, my talk is over and I invite anyone who has questions or would like to talk, to come and speak with me. Many of the stories I hear have never before broken the silence of their secrecy. Emboldened by what they have just heard, people stammer out situation after situation of brutality, betrayal, confusion, perversity and pain –  things they have kept secret all their lives.

It can be an excruciating process for victims to find their voices and gather the boldness to reveal what happened to them in their past, but when it comes, the liberation of being validated by people who believe them is boundless – and the possibility of preventing their perpetrators from harming others is heightened.

Through bringing light into dark memories and exposing what predators have done for centuries, the way society views child sex abuse is changing. The shame is shifting from the victims to the place it belongs - to the predators. It’s a huge relief to many victims to shed the burden of secret shame they may have carried for years and to know they’re not alone. Gradually, the fear of being judged negatively is slipping away in the realization that it’s okay to talk about the things that have haunted them.

This month, a litany of new charges, for alleged offences between 1965 and 1984, were laid against Gordon Stuckless, dubbed the “Monster of Maple Leaf Gardens.” While some may wonder why it has taken the alleged victims so long to come forward, it is no mystery to Theo Fleury, who was molested by former junior hockey coach, Graham James. It took 27 years for Theo to finally talk about it. His teammate, Sheldon Kennedy, went public about his abuse under Graham James 15 years earlier. Together, they encourage others to come forward as they did and feel the empowerment they have found.

But it’s not just about a swell of victims finding their voices; it’s about making those voices resonate throughout society and the legal system to send a message to predators that they can no longer count on silence and shame to hide them, and that we need to find ways to protect kids. Child sexual abuse has become epidemic.

The WKI® “Plan to Protect™” needs to be established and implemented in every organization where children are involved  – schools, churches, clubs, sports facilities, child care centers, etc. As the protocols become familiar to volunteers and workers who use them in their interactions with children, they will become acknowledged, expected protocols in society in general, giving a greater measure of safety to our little ones.

Candid revelations of offences, an atmosphere of safety in revealing secrets, having the sound policies of “Plan to Protect™” in place and giving predators an expectation of severe punishment are all critical factors in turning the tide on child sexual abuse.

It’s a lot of work, but we can do it – together.

© Diane Roblin-Lee