As a mom, my heart split wide open when reading recent news about the tragic rape of a 12-year-old boy at a prestigious Christian school in our Nashville community (incidents occurred in 2015). The article in our local paper (and picked up by national news) focused on the lawsuit that is being leveled against school officials, as well as other leaders in our community, who were indicted on claims that they did not report the violent incidents. My heart and mind have been flooded with emotions, and I felt it best to give a few days to process, pray, and be able to clearly communicate my concerns about this horrifying situation. When sexual abuse invades your community, it is appropriate to pause and consider the implications. Many things trouble me about this situation in particular.
[I am not linking to the original news article in this post for reasons I describe below].
A boy was horribly sexually abused. By his peers, on his school campus. This is the main thing we must all remember. No matter what “sides” people intend to take about how the administration acted or didn’t act, this by far is the most grievous fact of the story. So far as I’ve seen, this allegation of abuse seems undisputed. His life has been forever altered. So has his family’s.
The details are too public.
The details of this sexual abuse were documented PUBLICLY by local and national media. Probably because the lawsuit is public record. While sexual abuse lawsuits don’t name victims for very good reasons (to protect), this case declares the intimate details of the disturbing incidents, and consequently, these details have been published by the media for all the world to see. We all know that anything put online can “live” forever. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if publishing these details protects or further harms the victim. When that boy is grown up, he will no doubt face challenges that come from the life-altering abuse he’s been through. We pray he will find emotional healing and restoration that allows him to overcome his trauma (I’ve known many sexual abuse victims who have). But it’s also possible that this man will still deal with the horror of this crime in his everyday life. I feel that publishing the details of the abuse is a painful escalation of the original trauma. Because of how troubled I am about the perpetual retelling of this boy’s nightmare, I am not linking to the story. One less place his trauma will reside on the web.
Pornography plays a part.
We can not ignore the role pornography plays in creating context for crimes such as this. 8th grade boys sexually assaulted a 6th grade boy, with others looking on. True, no court documents have indicated the perpetrators’ porn use. No evidence has been presented; in fact, nothing has been said about it at all. But if we know that 67% of teen boys are actively viewing porn, and 88% of the porn being consumed by teens is full of sexual violence, then can we not safely surmise that most teenagers have a steady diet of sexual violence being delivered by their phones? This is how rape culture is created. I would be completely shocked if the teens who committed these crimes are in the 33% of teens who abstain from viewing porn. And so would you. So would we all.
[An interesting caveat to this story is that approximately 5 years ago, my husband attended a special event at this school about the harms of pornography, with a fantastic presentation by Craig Gross, founder of xxxchurch.com. We were told I could not attend the event, as it was intended only for males. My husband reported that given the size of the school, the presentation was lightly attended. I couldn’t help but think about the moms who deserved to hear this presentation, and the many young men who weren’t present that night.]
Accountability must de demanded.
Yes, I am troubled by even the suggestion that officials from any school would do something other than the RIGHT thing in such a serious situation, let alone from an institution with a Christian mission. I know there are sides of the story that may not have come to light yet, and that the school has denied the allegations outright. However, if the allegations are found to be true in a court of law, these men will be in jail and will say good-bye to the life of freedom they enjoy. It should be noted that in Tennessee, any adult who suspects abuse is legally required to report it to the authorities. I pray that the truth would be revealed and any wrong-doers would be held accountable.
Where are the perpetrators?
What about the boys who committed the crime? Are they being held legally responsible? I have heard nothing about this part of the story (a pretty giant hole, if you ask me). A civil suit for damages has been filed in recent days against their families, but I have heard nothing of criminal prosecution. If they are guilty, shouldn’t they be registered as sex offenders? They were expelled from the school, but where did they go? Did they end up at a public school in our community, where they could be a danger to others?
Our kids deserve to be warned.
I hate the fact that I have to talk to my middle schoolers about the dangers of being alone with other kids in locker rooms and other isolated locations at school. But I will, and I already have… because I’m a parent, and it’s my responsibility to equip them with wisdom for times when I can’t be there. I hate that many of their classmates are already watching violent porn. I hate how easy it is to find porn and how hard it is to vigilantly protect your kids’ hearts, eyes, and minds. I hate that six million child sexual abuse images were reported to NCMEC last year alone.
When children are sexually abusing other children, you have no further to look than the influence of pornography. As our friends at Protect Young Minds have said, “Pornography is the worst serial sex abuser in the history of the world.” This is a serious epidemic that we must face and confront as parents with great vigilance!
I’m no perfect parent. Not even close. But I’m certainly not going to stop growing and becoming better at loving and leading my kids. And I’ve chosen not to be silent about this very real and very dark reality that has invaded the community I live in. MORE can be and MUST be done! When we started Parents Who Fight we didn’t want to be parents who tell everyone what they should be doing better. We set out to actually come alongside parents and help them do better. Sometimes that means setting up parental controls with them. Sometimes it means answering emails with long, technical questions. Often it means stopping to listen, cry with, and even pray for the families whose lives have been blown apart by pornography.
In order to see change in our community, we must come together and BE the change. What can we do? We can talk to the parents in our circles and encourage each other. We can wait to give our kids technology that puts them at risk. We can warn our kids about the dangers of pornography and other online risks, including how these dangers affect the peers they interact with. We can pray. We can love. We can hope.