Friday, February 4, 2011

Acting against abuse
Acting against abuse
Workshop addresses preventing, stopping sex abuse of children
February 4, 2011

In the early 1960s, Nashville's David Brown was sexually abused by a priest he considered a mentor.

After the abuse, Brown went from making As in school and planning to become a priest to taking drugs and drinking alcohol. Brown was on a panel discussing child sex abuse in the church Thursday during a workshop in Jackson.
"He was extremely popular, extremely charismatic — everybody loved him," Brown said at the event held at First Baptist Church. "When it happened and I say my world ended and childhood ended — it did."
Leadership Jackson Alumni Association and the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored the workshop led by the non-profit organization You Have the Power. The workshop included videos featuring victims such as Brown talking about their abuse and sexual offenders explaining their rationale and how they lured the children. It also included a panel discussion on the signs of abuse and how to respond to it.
One in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be victims of sexual abuse by the time they are 18, according to Lisa Schmidt, executive director of the Madison County Child Advocacy Center. Children often are taught to protect themselves from strangers but not from people they know.
"Most often than not, the sexual abuse is from someone they know and love and trust with their well being," Schmidt said.
It took Brown more than 35 years to tell anyone else what happened. He then felt betrayed by the response he got from a bishop after Brown said he wanted to let the public know.
"He told me people had dealt with their skeletons differently and there was no reason to stir anything up ... but he also told me I was the only victim they knew of," Brown said in the video.
In the video, convicted sex offender and former priest Ed McKeown said he was able to separate his abusive behavior from other areas of his life.
"When I look at it (now), all I can think about is what an incredible amount of harm I've done," he said.
It is the church leaders' role to not treat forgiveness as meaning no consequences, said panel member Tim Alexander, minister of Smith Springs Church of Christ in Nashville.
"The more visible the role that is occupied (by the sex offender), the greater (level) of betrayal and grief is inflicted on a congregation," he said in the video.
The church's first role is to protect the victim and "doing whatever they can do to develop and sustain an environment of safety," he said.
An offender may begin their "courtship" of their victim well before the sexual acts begin. It may start with taking the victim out to eat and escalate from hugging to intercourse, Schmidt said.
The victim's behavior may change after the abuse. That may mean becoming withdrawn, aggressive, constant complaining of ailments or a decline in grades, she said.

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