(Disclaimer: I understand that there may be some parents who have done an excellent job with regard to this topic. I applaud you. I am addressing what I see as an overall trend.)
I have been doing a lot of reading on child sexual abuse, especially that which takes place within the context of the Christian community, be it a church, school, or home. While reading I have been brought face to face, time after time, with the words of Jesus as to how he sees, and we should see, children.
He actually tells us not only that we are to open arms to the little ones, but also that we are to become like them. He teaches a very compassionate view of children.
Maybe it is just me but I don't always see this compassionate view being played out in the Christian community. Perhaps it is because there is so much emphasis on teaching and training and disciplining, that we begin to see these children as a project to be completed or an obstacle to be overcome.
But in all of the teaching and training in obedience and personal responsibility there seem to be a couple of truths that get left out. And these are vital when it comes to abuse.
1.) Obedience. We teach our children obedience. Obedience to parents. To teachers. To authority. Some tack on not only the need to obey, but to obey immediately, willingly, and cheerfully. But do we ever teach out kids that there are times when it is important NOT to obey? I think it blows our minds to think that any of our children might ever be in that situation. But it happens. And we need to face that.
Our kids need to know that it is ok not to obey in certain situations. When somebody wants to touch them. When somebody does something to them or in front of them or shows them something and makes them promise never to tell. Our kids need to know that it is not a sin to say no. Or to share a secret. Even if somebody made them promise never to tell. Obedience always, at all cost, can be exceedingly dangerous.
2.) Sinning vs. Being Sinned Against. In the Christian community, at least within my corner of it, there is the ever present reminder that children are born with a sin nature. Our job as parents is to teach them and train them and discipline them, all the while reminding them that Jesus came to die for their sins. All too often, it is the teaching and training and disciplining that get the airplay with the apparent goal of well behaved kids. Even if the kids do begin to really grasp the idea of their own sin and the need for confession and repentance, they aren't being told the other half of the story.
It is no wonder that children who are abused feel that the abuse is their own fault. That they are the ones who have sinned. We teach them that God honors good behavior. So when something bad happens that must naturally mean that they did something bad. It is important to understand that in so many cases of abuse within a Christian environment, the abuser actually blames the victim for the abuse.
We do a disservice to our children when we don't equip them with an understanding of what it means to be sinned against.
Sin is an uncomfortable topic but it is everywhere. Everywhere in the Bible and everywhere in our world. So we talk about it. A lot. It seems to be easier to manage our sin (or so we think) than it is to manage our shame. We don't teach out kids how to handle shame because I don't think we know how to so it ourselves. But it is time we learned.
We will be sinned against in this life. Our children will, too. Our children need to learn how to turn to God and to us out in their brokenness without fear of punishment for a sin they did not commit.
Raising kids is hard, hard work. Jesus reminds is that he wants us to receive and protect them while we train them.