S.E.S.A.M.E. Calls for Strengthening the Safety Net for Victims of Abuse
NEW YORK, Dec. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Though the Sandusky conviction and the nation's discussion of sexual abuse has faded, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E.) calls on parents to stay vigilant for signs of child sexual abuse, especially at the hands of trusted adults, like educators and coaches. Terri Miller, President of S.E.S.A.M.E., pointed to gaps in the education system that allow predatory educators and coaches to continue to interact with and harm children.
Symptoms of abuse can include but are not limited to unexplained or recurring injuries such as cuts and bruises situated in areas of the child's body which are not normally prone to injury; physical signs such as stomachaches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, bed-wetting, damaged clothes, eating disorders, substance abuse, desire to drop out of school; and unexplained changes in behavior and/or attitudes toward adults or activities they have previously enjoyed. Children may become depressed, fearful, anxious, isolated, and/or experience suicidal thoughts.
"Administrators, teachers, coaches, trainers, and parents all have the power to end abuse," said Miller. "We must bring the discussion of abuse out of the shadows so that fewer young people suffer in silence."
Parents can help prevent abuse by requesting that the staff of their school and athletic club undergo criminal background checks; having an open dialogue about inappropriate or abusive behaviors and what they should do if they observe such behaviors; and request that their school or athletic club adopt policies that clearly define misconduct and abuse.
"It is unacceptable that adults who work closely with children do not undergo comprehensive background checks, and that there are not uniform reporting requirements for abusive educators," said Miller. "A patchwork of laws will not stop predators from getting new employment where they can continue to abuse children. We must enact laws, like the Jeremy Bell Act, so that our children are better protected."
Educator sexual misconduct has reached epidemic proportions in America's schools. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 10 children – or nearly 4.5 million current K-12 students – will be a victim of abuse before the end of his or her school career. At least a quarter of all U.S. school districts have dealt with a case of sexual abuse over the last decade.
S.E.S.A.M.E. is a leading national voice for prevention and awareness of educator sexual misconduct that provides support to survivors, their families and professionals seeking justice, and works with policymakers to strengthen the legal safety net for students. S.E.S.A.M.E. is working to pass the S.E.S.A.M.E. Act in Pennsylvania and the Jeremy Bell Act in Congress, both of which would mandate background checks for new educators, and create mandatory reporting guidelines for abusive educators in order to end the concealment of offenders known as, "passing the trash."