Breaking The Silence: Helping Teens Protect Themselves from Sexual Abuse
Teenagers are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of sexual abuse. As young people, they are just beginning to make their own decisions about many aspects of their lives. At the same time, they are coping with a strong, sometimes overwhelming need to gain approval and to be accepted. Sexual abusers know how to take advantage of this vulnerability, with tragic results. In fact, nearly a third of all victims of sexual abuse in the U.S. are teens.
Breaking the Silence is a new program, created especially for students attending Diocese of Orange high schools and those youths who participate in the Diocese’s youth ministry programs. It is a powerful tool that utilizes an interactive DVD format to encourage teens to talk about sexual abuse and also to describe the danger signs of a potential abuser. Teens typically are not comfortable talking about sexual abuse and it is their silence that makes it easier for offenders to continue stalking their targets and for victims to suffer alone.
Why Teens are Vulnerable to Sexual Abuse
Starting in preschool, they may have been warned many times about not talking to strangers, not getting into a stranger’s car and to run away from the friendly man looking for a lost puppy. It’s likely too, that they learned about good touches and bad touches.
Being wary of strangers will not protect teens because it is a trusted adult, not a stranger, who is most likely to commit sexual abuse. In fact, 90 percent of all sexual abuse cases in the U.S. are committed by someone who is known to the victim. Sex offenders come from all backgrounds, occupations, races and levels of education. Often they are married and have children of their own. Police files are filled with reports of teachers, coaches, clergy, youth volunteers, relatives or even police officers who have violated the trust of children.
Most abusers, over a period of weeks or months, use “grooming” techniques such as extra attention, praise, gifts, understanding, affection and even money to make a young person feel that they have a special friendship. The goal is to have the young person believe that whatever occurs in the friendship is appropriate. When sexual contact is finally made, there may not be overt force because the grooming techniques of the abuser have desensitized the act of wrongful sex, making the youth compliant and giving an illusion of consent. A young person. embarrassed about being molested by a familiar and “trusted” person, will feel guilty about being seduced and deceived, and may never report the incident. As long as it remains a secret, there will be fear, suffering and psychological distress for the victim.
Featured in the program are a group of Diocesan teens that share their concerns and opinions about sexual abuse. They speak candidly and bring up a number of specific questions that are discussion starters for the students who are watching the DVD.
Teenagers will be better informed and more aware of the dangers of sexual abuse after participating in Breaking the Silence, which focuses on:
- Recognizing the “grooming” techniques used by sexual abusers.
- Learning to trust one’s own instincts about inappropriate adult behavior that makes a teen uncomfortable.
- Exposing the widespread myths about sexual abuse.
- Reporting the sexual abuse to authorities.
- Hearing from a victim’s mother the long-term fear, suffering and psychological distress that affects victims and their families.
- Breaking the Silence - clip 1* - Teenagers discuss the sexual abuse of minors.
- Breaking the Silence - clip 2 * - Probation officer explains grooming techniques of perpetrators.
- Breaking the Silence - clip 3 * - Mother describes effects of the sexual abuse of her son.
- Breaking the Silence - clip 4 * - How and why to report sexual abuse.