So what is the greatest moral challenge of our time? It’s a heavy question for a Wednesday, I know. But if you had to name it, pin it down to one thing, what would you say? Climate change? The AIDS epidemic in Africa? The sky-high illiteracy rates of women and children in developing nations? The obscene amount of waste in developed countries compared to the extreme poverty of the developing world?
All of them? None of them?
I know my answer. It’s a problem that – like cancer – shows no discrimination. It’s a problem that’s happening right now, possibly in the house across the road from you. It happens behind closed doors in churches and temples and school boarding houses. It’s in our aboriginal communities and country towns and in million dollar homes at Broadbeach. It’s whispered about in Bangladeshi slums and council flats in London and high-rises in New York. It’s happening around the world. Anywhere, in fact, where there are children.
I’m talking about child sexual assault.
In Australia, the statistics are hard to comprehend. One in five children are sexually assaulted. And that abuse has a ripple affect that society is scrambling to deal with.
The fact is children who are sexually assaulted frequently start failing at school, begin binge drinking, taking drugs and become sexually promiscuous as a result of the abuse. They also often face a lifelong battle with depression and self-loathing when they try – and fail – to process the feelings of what has happened to them. There is the abject shame and filth they feel about themselves. The blame they carry that somehow they are at fault, that they encouraged or caused the assault. The hollowness of feeling forever changed and of having an innocence about the world stripped away.
And let me state the obvious now – no child is ever to blame. Not even a little bit. It is always the adult’s fault. End of story.
Since it’s the first Wednesday in August I’m nominating Bravehearts as our First Wednesday Club charity. Founder Hetty Johnston is fighting the good fight. I’m not sure you’ll meet anyone more passionate about protecting our children.
“We remain the only children’s charity dedicated holistically and specifically to the issue of child sexual assault in Australia,” Hetty tells me. “We offer counseling, public awareness campaigns, community education for children, young offenders counseling, media, research, advocacy. Our interest is both in victims and offenders and in every element involved in the issue of child sexual assault.”
Like all small charities Bravehearts runs on the smell of an oily rag and Hetty and her team need more financial help. Ten dollars can pay for a child to attend Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure School – Bravehearts’ personal safety program. So if you’ve never donated to our First Wednesday Club before – start today. It’s just ten dollars. You can spare ten bucks. And if we all get involved — $10 will make a huge difference.
Go to Bravehearts to donate or call (07) 5552 3000.