Why Child Sexual Abuse

We need to reimagine the dominant stories that oversimplify and over-moralize the issue, keeping us from moving upstream toward the systemic roots of child sexual harm. Why? Several key reasons:

  • What happens to children will touch everyone and everything they encounter for the rest of their lives; not just friends and loved ones but neighborhoods, employers, the legal and medical systems, etc.
  • Thinking systemically about child sexual abuse can be a model for how we understand all manner of violence and harm
  • Bringing a critical, survivor-focused lens to the issue provides fertile ground for learning what transformative healing looks like in the face of suffering

Children inhabit a gray area in our society—legally, socially, and subjectively. Their boundaries are more permeable than adults.  Our many layers of experience (economic, social, racial, gender, sexual, ability) affect children more directly and make them more prone to outside influence. The people and systems that impact their lives do so deeply, and what happens to them ripples outward in social space and time. When a child is harmed, we all feel it.

Child sexual abuse ruptures our shared sense of trust, as reflected by the sharp reactivity of prevailing responses. The child welfare and criminal justice systems focus on extraction and punishment to close the rupture. However, these models create security where there needs to be safety and accountability.