By Steve Arterburn
One moment in last week's sentencing of Penn State pedophile Jerry Sandusky stood out as both painful and redemptive, not only for the victims of the disgraced assistant coach, but for the universe of sex abuse victims.
Addressing the unidentified victims, Judge John Cleland spoke words of wisdom I urge these young men, now struggling to begin a healthy life, not to overlook. "The fact that you were assaulted is no cause for shame," he said. "It is for your courage that you will be remembered."
Those of us who have lived with such traumatic memories -- both of my brothers were molested -- applaud Judge Cleland for including such a thoughtful remark. Sandusky's victims must embrace it.
Their courageous story-sharing has taken a remorseless predator off the streets. If they are like so many other victims, they have worn the shame of their abuser far too long. They must hold to the truth that it is not their shame.
Each one must do whatever it takes to shed that shame and rise above it. They, not the predator, were the victims. He, not they, took over their lives like a monster and robbed them of their youthful innocence. And they did not possess the power to stop him.
Now they must find knowledge of their renewed power. They must understand, as all potential victims must, that enjoying the attention of elders is not the same as inviting abuse. They can, and must, put the shame back on their abuser, who has taken up a large and forbidding presence in their minds.
No abuser is entitled to that. The sooner help and healing come, the sooner the abuser will lose his hold. To victims everywhere: It is not your shame. Now do the work to banish that shame from your lives.
Judge Cleland expanded his advice for all of us to learn from the Sandusky scandal. We need, he emphasized, to stay vigilant in protecting our children.
No truer words.
As a father of five, I never assume everyone has their best interest in mind. As guardian of my children's hearts and souls, I teach them and prepare them about what could happen at sleepovers and strictly limited such activities. I make sure my kids know the difference between good and bad touches.
They know that anyone urging them to keep a secret from me is a bad person. They grasp that if they tell me a secret I will not allow bad things to befall them. Every parent preparing a child for the real world must be vigilant with protection and supervision.
My friend Dave Stoop, in his book Forgiving the Unforgivable, wrote a tough reminder that at times we are called to free ourselves from the past and the evil people in it. We can do that, difficult as it may be, by forgiving the most detestable acts. This is the only path to resolution.
Looking back over the decades of mounting abuses, it will occur to victims that the toughest to forgive are all the adults who knew or suspected something wasn't right. They knew and did nothing. That is as close to unforgivable as it gets.
A proverb tells us, "Anyone who winks at wrong causes trouble." In cases of sexual abuse, that person who winks at it or the suspicion of it inflicts pain, suffering and immeasurable misery.
Parents, hold your children close. Protect them. Pay attention when you see marked changes in the way they interact or feel or talk. Don't assume all is fine when your child exhibits signs and symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere. Do risk taking action. Don't passively hope for the best.
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