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Building Bridges: Connecting Communities to Prevent Child Abuse

Thank you for a wonderful conference!

  • Coyote Creek Bridge<br><span>1922 Eugene, Oregon<br>photo: Sandy Horvath-Dori</span>
  • Siuslaw River Bridge<br><span>1936 Florence, Oregon<br>photo: Sam Beebe</span>
  • Mosby Creek Covered Bridge<br><span>1920 Cottage Grove, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Office Creek Covered Bridge<br><span>1944 Jasper-Lowell, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Dorena Covered Bridge<br><span>1949 Cottage Grove, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Belknap Covered Bridge<br><span>1966 McKenzie River, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Currin Covered Bridge<br><span>Cottage Grove, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Ernest Covered Bridge<br><span>1938 Mohawk River, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Goodpasture Covered Bridge<br><span>1938 Springfield, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Lowell Covered Bridge<br><span>1945 Lowell, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Lowell Covered Bridge<br><span>1945 Lowell, Oregon<br>photo: Gail Stephan</span>
  • Currin Covered Bridge<br><span>1925 Cottage Grove, Oregon<br>photo: Sandy Horvath-Dori</span>
  • Stewart Covered Bridge<br><span>1930 Cottage Grove, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Unity Covered Bridge<br><span>1936 Fall Creek, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>
  • Wendling Covered Bridge<br><span>1936 Mill Creek, Oregon<br>Chambers Family Foundation<br>Photo Collection</span>


The Register Gaurd - GUEST VIEWPOINT

Josh Duggar speaks at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. in April. In May, he resigned in the wake of his apology for bad behavior as a young teen. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

By Phyllis Barkhurst
For The Register-Guard
JUNE 5, 2015
Article Source

Because I’ve worked with victims and offenders for more than 30 years in the field of sexual abuse intervention and prevention, I have been following the highly publicized case of sexual molestation of children by Josh Duggar, now a 27-year-old reality TV star and political strategist. The Duggar story is being politicized to the extent of overshadowing the lessons we can learn from it.

Josh Duggar has admitted molesting children when he was 14 and 15 years old — mostly his younger sisters, including one child as young as five. In all 50 states, these actions would be classified as criminal.

According to his statement, as well as those of his parents, Josh Duggar repeatedly admitted that he had molested younger children soon after committing the crime.

He left the question of what to do with the adults in his life, primarily his parents, but also (much later) with church “elders” and a state trooper. It seems that all the adults failed him by not responding appropriately — but, more importantly, they failed the children he molested, and failed to ensure the safety of children who lived in or visited the Duggar home.

I have chosen five key lessons to focus on from this ongoing story:

1) Safety first. This is the most important lesson. It is imperative that all children be safeguarded. The Duggar parents called what Josh did “bad choices,” but they made their first “bad choice” by keeping Josh in the home where he had continuing access to younger children.

2) Break the secrecy. In this case, that means breaking the silence within the family, within the church and, finally, to law enforcement so that the victims don’t think that they have anything to be ashamed of, now or in the future.

It is vital that survivors never be silenced. It is harmful to “protect” survivors from embarrassment by enforcing silence and secrecy “for their own good.” Without overt permission to speak about their experience, survivors can and do internalize shame and guilt that is often traumatizing on its own. Survivors are empowered when they are supported in speaking about their experience to anyone they choose to and whenever they choose.

3) Hold the offender accountable, and keep the focus on the victims. It is vital that children who are molested see that action is taken to protect them and that the person who molested them was held accountable within the family and wherever the abuse occurred — in church, in school or on a team — as well as within the criminal justice system.

Victims’ needs have to be the priority; child victims’ needs may change as they age. Young children may not articulate or present symptoms of trauma or harm at the time of disclosure, but they may feel and articulate it later, especially as puberty approaches and they start to struggle with their own emerging sexuality.

For survivors, there is no “dealing with it” once and putting it away. It is a lifelong process with many opportunities along with the way to offer support.

4) Don’t minimize what happened. Parents Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have said that most of the molestations were “over the clothes” and that “it wasn’t rape.” The evidence is clear: Children who are harmed by family members can be severely traumatized. Children can be severely traumatized by a one-time over-the-clothes incident because they were harmed by someone they trusted, or because they felt helpless and afraid and didn’t know what to do, or because they blamed themselves for what happened. Betrayal causes trauma, as does helplessness and terror, as do poor responses to disclosures — which leads us into the last key lesson.

5) Respond well when a person of any age discloses abuse. This is important whether the incident was recent or happened decades ago.

When people disclose, they are seeking reassurance that they did nothing wrong and that they have nothing to be ashamed of. It is always an opportunity to support survivors, because they told you for a reason. So, offer thanks that they chose you to tell, along with a calm and caring response.

If there is any current threat of harm, a calm and caring response needs to be coupled with effective action that maintains safety for the victim and, hopefully, brings about accountability for the offender.

Let us choose not to be passive spectators of the media circus that surrounds the Duggar family.

Other than celebrity, there is nothing unique about this story. Let us decide what lessons can be learned here — and apply them here at home. In this way we do our part to honor the survivors in this case and in every case.

There is a Duggar family in every community — including ours.

Phyllis Barkhurst is director of the 90by30 child abuse prevention initiative and co-director of the University of Oregon Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect.

Our Story

The 90by30 Initiative is a county-wide effort with one bold goal: to reduce child abuse and neglect 90% by 2030 in Lane County, Oregon.

Three essential steps to achieve 90by30:

We each have a role.
Shift our thinking so that all in Lane County believe that providing a safe community for children and youth is a concern shared by each and every one of us.
We know what to do.
Ensure that each of us has the knowledge and skills to promote a safe and caring community for children and youth.
We will act, we will take part.
Each person in Lane County will take action in small and large ways to promote the safety of children and youth and provide a caring community. By doing this, we can prevent child abuse and neglect. Click here to volunteer.

90by30 was born out of frustration that Lane County rates of neglect and abuse remain unacceptably high coupled with a core belief, because of great advancements in the field, that child abuse and neglect can be dramatically reduced and prevented.

Countless Lane County residents, agencies, governmental units, civic groups and schools have been working for decades to reduce child abuse and neglect, and to support child victims and families.

These outstanding local efforts have meaningfully impacted the lives of thousands of children and families, increased safety, and improved family relationships. They all play a vital role in our county-wide effort to reduce neglect and abuse and support families. It is essential that local efforts already in place receive the support they need to thrive – their work is crucial to the wellbeing of children and families in Lane County.

90by30 has come into being because despite incredible efforts all across the State, including Lane County, to support children and families, the incidence of child abuse and neglect is still not decreasing. In 2000 there were 40,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in Oregon and in 2010 the number of Oregon child abuse and neglect reports rose to 71,886. It is widely accepted that even these high numbers don’t adequately reflect the actual incidence of child abuse and neglect; the rates are significantly higher – simply because some cases are suspected but not reported and some cases are completely hidden from view.

It is clear that we have to support the needs of children and families with the programs and services already in place – AND – add to those local efforts with more strategies laser-focused on prevention.

It is reasonable to assume that without additional prevention strategies and efforts, the incidence of child abuse and neglect in Lane County will not be any lower in 10 years than it is today.

A new, more coordinated and prevention-rich approach that adds value to existing efforts is needed. 90by30, along with its many community partners, is developing a county-wide strategic plan that draws on the framework of Collective Impact, public health prevention strategies, and known child abuse and neglect risk and protective factors. 90by30 is supported by private foundations and donors and housed at the Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect within the College of Education at the University of Oregon.

Join Us! We are in this for the long haul and invite every one of you to join us. Learn how. Click here.

Locally, we have the talent and the heart we need to achieve 90by30 in Lane County. This effort is not a government and social service expansion effort. This is, at its core, an effort designed to ensure that there is a role for every single person, neighborhood, group, business, and school to reduce child neglect and abuse and support children and families.

Community involvement is the single most important factor in child abuse and neglect prevention.