I’ve written here about pronatalism’s costs to children, including the costs associated with unfit parents. The Atlantic has too, with a recent startling piece by Mia Fontaine on unfit parents when it comes to child sexual abuse. She writes, “People are rightly horrified by abuse scandals at Penn State and in the Catholic church. But what about children who are molested by their own family members?” She gives some very disturbing stats about child abuse:
- “Child sexual abuse impacts more Americans annually than cancer, AIDS, gun violence, LGBT inequality, and the mortgage crisis combined.”
- “1 in 3-4 girls, and 1 in 5-7 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, an overwhelming incidence of which happens within the family. These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, “and this is a notoriously underreported crime.”
- “95% of teen prostitutes and at least one-third of female prisoners were abused as kids.”
- “Sexually abused youth are twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense as adults, are at twice the risk for lifelong mental health issues, and are twice as likely to attempt or commit teen suicide. “
- “Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders.”
Why don’t more people know about these stats? Why is the topic so “relegated to the hushed, shadowy outskirts of public and personal discussion?”
Fontaine writes that maybe it’s because “however devastating sexual molestation by a trusted figure is, it’s still more palatable than the thought of being raped by one’s own flesh and blood.”
Or is it, she rightly ponders. She asks us to imagine what would happen if every kid currently being abused, and every adult who was abused but stayed silent, spoke out, “insisted on justice, and saw that justice meted out.”
What would happen? “The very fabric of society would be torn. Everyone would be affected, personally and professionally, as family members, friends, colleagues, and public officials suddenly found themselves on trial, removed from their homes, in jail, on probation, or unable to live and work in proximity to children; society would be fundamentally changed, certainly halted for a time, on federal, state, local, and family levels. Consciously and unconsciously, collectively and individually, accepting and dealing with the full depth and scope of incest is not something society is prepared to do.”
This stopped me in my tracks. Fontaine asks us to share these statistics with people we know, and be willing to take action to pressure the government, schools, and other systems to prioritize this issue.
One way to take action is in how we approach parenthood education in this country. It starts with pronatalist beliefs that condone the right for anyone to have children whenever they want to have them, whether they are emotionally, psychologically or financially ready.
What can happen when parents aren’t emotionally or psychologically ready to have children? Things like child sexual abuse.
What if there were parenthood education programs with big incentives to complete Before people become parents, and they addressed understanding at least a bit of one’s personal psychology—to be able to answer yes to: Am I sufficiently aware of my core psychological and emotional issues?
Before we become parents, we need to become aware of our childhood wounds and psychological weaknesses. As humans, we carry emotional hurts. We need to have some level of self-understanding of these hurts and related emotional issues before we begin raising children. If we don’t have this self-awareness, our parenting and our children will suffer.
Child sexual abuse is a very serious effect of a lack of this kind of awareness. Better and more serious approaches to ensuring parental readiness may not solve this issue, which Fontaine characterizes as a “national nightmare,” but it would sure put in a dent in preventing parents of the future to work on themselves before ending up forcing their children to live with some very serious, life long demons.
How do you think more serious parenthood education efforts before people become parents would better our society?