We’ve seen allegations that titans of the entertainment industry, community leaders and elected officials have sexually harassed or assaulted others. We’ve listened as more than 150 women detail the horrendous abuse they suffered at the hands of gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. And we’ve also seen Oprah Winfrey declare on national television that “Time is up!” for those who wield their power to prey on others.
We are living in extraordinary times.
I have watched each development of the #MeToo movement with a mixture of awe and disheartenment. The bravery of the survivors is inspiring, but in the face of so much evil, we can feel powerless.
Sexual harassment and abuse are clearly prevalent in our country. How can we protect our children? What can we do to create a new movement, one in which the next generation can proclaim #NoMoreMeToo?
Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney ended her statement in court with a call to action: “Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it’s time to take our power back.” She is right.
Education is the key to prevent abuse
We must focus on giving power to children by educating them to prevent the abuse from happening. Research shows that 95 percent of child maltreatment is preventable through education. We must seize this opportunity to equip our children with the tools they need to ensure safety for themselves and others.
Sadly, we know that one in five girls and one in 12 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays. Because of the trauma they suffer, victims are at a higher risk for experiencing psychological disorders, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, criminal behavior and other negative impacts. Many children who are victimized suffer in silence, but those who receive prevention education are more likely to speak out, giving trusted safe adults the opportunity to help them.
Children need a program that works to stop abuse before it ever happens. In 2015, a study by Florida State University’s School of Teacher Education showed that elementary school students had a 96 percent gain in safety knowledge after they completed a program to give them information and strategies to prevent bullying, cyberbullying, digital abuse and all types of child abuse. Those are powerful results that show these programs can help children have a better understanding of abuse.
Educators, you have a powerful platform of influence. Schools serve as the single best place to implement prevention programs. Parents can help by supporting schools’ decisions to teach these programs and by fostering a dialogue at home. And lawmakers can make a difference by requiring all schools to provide abuse prevention education —and by holding them accountable to do so.
Together, we can educate, empower and protect more children so they can proclaim #NoMoreMeToo.