By US Daily Review Staff.
Phony statistics and over-the-top warnings are creating an atmosphere of “post Penn State paranoia” that harms children, according to a national child advocacy organization.
“The scandal surrounding allegations of child abuse by a former Penn State football coach can be a teachable moment,” says Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. “It can help us address the serious and real problem of child abuse. But not if all we teach is that we should turn in anyone and everyone as a possible child abuser, and not if we teach children to fear all adults.”
Wexler said scores of news stories repeat the claim that “one in four girls and one in six boys” are victims of child sexual abuse. “But no scientific study ever is cited to support the claim.”
Wexler said that if the numbers were true, 40 percent of American adults either were victims of child sexual abuse or are siblings of victims. In fact, rigorous scholarship puts the real figure at 9 to 12 percent of girls and five to six percent of boys. “That’s plenty serious enough,” Wexler said. “We don’t need hype that turns every adult into a potential threat.”
Hyped numbers are used to justify ridiculous lists of child abuse “symptoms” to watch for in children. There is hardly a child in America who wouldn’t have at least one symptom at some time. “One list says we should suspect teenagers have been abused if they use drugs or alcohol,” Wexler said. “It makes you wonder if the people who write these lists were ever parents.”
Other advice includes never letting a child be alone with any adult. “That’s going to make it hard for, say, guidance counselors aiding children with personal problems,” Wexler said.
The result of all this can be seen in Florida where, after a schoolyard crush led a 12-year-old girl to kiss a 12-year-old boy in phys ed class, the assistant principal – a “mandated reporter” of child abuse – called it in to authorities as “a possible sex crime” – and sheriff’s deputies investigated.
“That must have traumatized the children, even as it stole time from finding children in real danger,” Wexler said.
“At its worst, Post Penn State paranoia risks setting off the kind of frenzy of false allegations that led to the “mass molestation” witchhunts of the 1980s, like the McMartin Preschool,” Wexler said.
NCCPR has more about all of this on its Child Welfare Blog, www.nccprblog.org