Last night at Beavers we had to watch a information video about what to do if we see something we think is inappropriate or suspect abuse. (Tell someone according to the guidelines of your local Scouting organization, apparently.)
It got me thinking. We all know that we should report abuse to the authorities. The tricky part is to decide what constitutes abuse or a significant warning sign. After all, most abusers don't full out beat or molest kids in public view. They know what they are doing is unacceptable and so create a culture of secrecy around it, one that children don't know is abnormal.
It feels like it's time to take the next step in abuse prevention. But what would that be? From case studies, it's fairly obvious that it's difficult for children to tell anyone when they're being abused. One great tip I heard was to encourage your child to tell you any secrets they were asked to keep. That it's okay to tell Mommy and Daddy everything, even if someone asks you to keep it a secret or tells you it'll get them or you in trouble.
The video also made me sad as I thought about the subtler forms of schoolyard torture, like exclusion and mockery. I was bullied a lot as a kid and I worry that my boys will be bullied since they're different. I've seen kids with Aspergers being mocked to their face and not picking up the social cues to realize the hostility.
One of the examples was a team event where one child doesn't want to participate and the group heads off without him. Should the team be forced to include the non-participating child? Should the child be allowed to opt-out in peace? To me, that's a no-win scenario. The kids will resent having to include someone who doesn't want to participate and the child will resent having to participate. But if the team is allowed to exclude someone because they're slow or confused, that's not good either. The video didn't give a good answer to that, suggesting that the best option was to talk to everyone later.
I don't have a good answer either. To me, that's a situation which has to be dealt with in preparation. Once it's reached the crisis, it will take a long time to undo the attitudes which made it an option to begin with.
I tell myself that I'm borrowing trouble. Alex is happy in his segregated class and well-protected by the teachers. Nathan is enjoying school and Beavers. But I can't help worrying and wondering.