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Trish Kinney Headshot

Boy Scouts, Swim Team and Church: Do You Know Who's Playing with your Child?

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Many times I have written about childhood sexual abuse in the Huffington Post. Those blogs don't get a lot of reader comments and it is not surprising. It is not a subject that people want to read about, think about, much less formulate comments about. And I totally understand that. So I write about other things as well even though most of them have at least an underlying theme related to the impact of sex in our modern culture.

In the past week or so, it has been difficult to read the Huffington Post or any other news source without coming across stories about sexual abuse. Just when you thought the Catholic Church had paid off enough people to quiet things down, the scandal gets even closer to the Pope himself. In 2001, then Cardinal Ratzinger, in a confidential letter to Catholic bishops regarding the handling of sexual abuse cases, referred to a requirement of secrecy in such cases. It has also been reported that a priest with a known history of sexual abuse was reassigned under the Cardinal's watch.

And now the Boy Scouts join in with an Oregon case against a troop leader who is on trial for molesting a scout. He has admitted to molesting 17 of the 30 boys in his troop. The court is allowing access to documentation of sexual abuse within the organization known as "the perversion files." In it are numerous examples of molestation cases, some with the familiar story of the accused being returned to service in the organization.

And finally, a 1972 Olympic gold medalist on the US swim team has come forward to speak about sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach beginning at age 11 and continuing for four years. Her charge is that there is not adequate screening and background checks for coaches in the US swim program creating an environment that encourages and supports sexual abuse between coaches and athletes, a claim upheld by numerous other cases that have come to light.

Despite how difficult it may be to even ponder such things, sexual abuse has social tentacles that affect crime, homelessness, depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health, physical health, and education. It was interesting to watch last weekend's health care debate as it related to abortion. We always hear about exclusions to restrictions on government funding for abortion to include the health of the mother, rape and incest. So we are willing to clean up the mess of rape and incest by using federal funds to pay for abortions but apparently not willing to explore how we may prevent sexual abuse and violence in this country. Until such time as we get interested in that, the only defense we have against childhood sexual abuse, or sexual abuse of any kind, is to tell. I know that didn't do much good when altar boys tried it and told their parents only to have the priest call them liars to protect themselves. And I know it didn't work for the Boy Scouts either although their complaints may have made it into the perversion files. And it didn't work for the gold medalist swimmer who was told her complaint couldn't be filed when she finally made it because she was no longer an active swimmer in the program. But telling is still the only way for now. As citizens, no matter how this issue may cross our paths, we have a responsibility to listen if told, to tell if victimized, and to act whenever possible to stop this killer of children's souls. And if you have a child, boy or girl, who plays organized sports, participates in social organizations, belongs to a church, has a babysitter from time to time, or even has a sibling, I hope you have taught them to tell. If not, you may become an expert on the subject in a way that no parent ever should.