Every night in my lengthy personal chat with God, I pray for both my husband and me to have a spirit of discernment, to keep people that may molest or touch our children inappropriately at bay. When stories like Jerry Sandusky unfold, I am reminded of just how scary child predators can be. They come in all shades, sizes and professions. Some court their prey like Sandusky. They gain their trust, they spend time, and they buy them things. Some have a family friend connection and they rely on that relationship to get them what they want. Others assault strangers; children they have never seen before and don’t plan to see again.
In middle school I befriended a Caucasian male teacher. I joined a handful of students that spent our lunch hours and after school time with him chatting about everything from family life to schoolwork. He taught me how to carve wood, how to play guitar, how to dissolve childhood drama. He was more than a teacher; he was a friend. He was married. He was kind. My parents were divorced and mom was worked a lot, but she watched this relationship very carefully. I remember her response when he asked if I could go fishing with him. “Oh, hell naw,” she said. I begged and begged and he agreed to come by our apartment to talk with her. After their meeting, she reluctantly agreed. We went fishing and I had nothing inappropriate to report. For years, our relationship remained the same.
When I was in college and home on summer vacation. He asked me to his family’s camp to “catch up.” He picked me up one early Friday morning in his blue pick up truck. It was good to see him. I missed him. He had a cooler full of snacks and lengthy conversation. When we arrived he offered me marijuana. I declined, but was shocked; he had never done that before. He proceeded to tell me that he and his wife were having sexual issues. He said following the birth of their children, she was no longer attracted to him and gave him “permission” to have sex with me. Lucky me. I declined his offer and was lucky he was at least decent enough to bring me home without further incident. But the betrayal stuck with me for years and I cried at the loss of a friend, at the fool I had been for years. It’s the shame associated with these types of events that keep you from talking. It took a long time to trust again.
Although his attempt to kiss me on the mouth was the height of his inappropriate touch, a friend of my grandmother’s took it a step further. I won’t bore you with all my personal stories with child predators, but suffice it to say I am well aware of the baggage it leaves victims to deal with. One in four African American children are sexually assaulted, molested or touched inappropriately.
Sandusky’s 45 guilty child sexual offenses are considered a victory for child advocates, but it’s a scary reminder to parents. Sandusky may be locked up, but there are so many more like him walking our streets, attending our church and teaching and coaching in our schools. So when a grown up creates situations to spend alone time with your child, pay attention. Single parent households, broken parental relationships are always a target, so be aware. Communicate with your child about inappropriate touch as early and often as possible.