Integrity Matters Broadcasts
May 31, 2007
Dear Friends –
This issue of our Broadcast is about two topics and one subject: it is about responsible guidance for current and future generations! The time is now for each of us to see the connections between how parenting (and grand-parenting) set the tone for social and cultural integration; strengthening interpersonal effectiveness and blunting the impact of predators. One of my mentors, Dr. Leonard J. Fletcher, said that we learn about things from books and about people from other people. Adults have a responsibility to turn off radios, televisions, and other electronic intrusions and engage with youth – to show them how to converse, debate, even disagree – in constructive ways. Adults can demonstrate listening skills, by listening. Attention is a way to compliment others, without simply patronizing and gushing praise randomly.
How we treat those who look to us as their role models will influence how they treat others. Civil behavior is fast disappearing from the public forum – on radio and television, and in the corridors of power and on the internet. Abuse is too common and must be blunted by personal and purposeful intervention. And, it can start (or be sustained) by those who interact with others, especially youth. It can start with you. And here are two insights that can become prescriptions for behavior:
From the Integrity Matters weekly newspaper column, on May 23, 2007 – how the behavior of children is often taught, even sanctioned, by adult role models -
Dear Jim: Rude and out-of-control youngsters in public places seem to be a growing problem. Can parents take steps to make sure they're part of the solution?
Attentive parents can make things better. After all, who else allows inappropriate behavior to escalate? Too many of today's moms and dads - up and down the socioeconomic spectrum - are sidestepping legitimate responsibilities for nurturing those they chose to bring into the world.
Latchkey children were once thought of as the byproduct of the lower middle class. But today, abandoned youth can be found across the socioeconomic spectrum. Hard-working parents trade their "one-on-one-time" for popular child-centric toys, often in the name of preparing their children for the future. To learn ways for adults, including parents, to more constructively lead and guide children - click here
Jim Bracher and Fr. Jerry Coleman
Father Gerald Coleman, SS, is Vice-President for Corporate Ethics, Daughters of Charity Health System, and lecturer in moral theology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. James F. Bracher is the founder of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership, Monterey, California.
The 13th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life gathered in Vatican City Feb. 23-24 to address the theme, “The Christian Conscience in Support of the Right to Life.” Pope Benedict XVI told participants that “attacks on the right to life are increasing worldwide.” He cited as examples the growing pressure in many countries to legalize abortion; the increasing use of demographic controls in some countries, the quest to get the “perfect child”; and the push to legalize euthanasia in some countries. The pope reiterated that “to guarantee the right to life for all and in equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of humanity depends.” Challenges to the right to life are well-stated in these examples. We would like to add another example that also compromises a child’s right to life – molestation.
Each year somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 children are molested in the United States. Each year thousands of children are sexually abused by sexual predators in California alone. Miss America Lauren Nelson, herself a victim of a potential online predator when she was in her teens, has been spotlighting the dangers awaiting children allowed to surf the Internet without supervision. She is using her national platform as a spokeswoman for the enacting of legal statutes to keep children safe when they are online. Nelson believes that the key solution is for parents and educators to assert power so that all can safely enter cyberspace. Her recent appearance on “America’s Most Wanted” demonstrated how many men are lusting after children on the Internet. Child abuse is the term used for four types of child mistreatment: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.
Child molestation is the sexual abuse of a child, 17 years old and younger. In California, sexual molestation of a child is a crime. In Catholic teaching, it is also a sin. Child molestation can include rape, incest, indecent exposure, sexual assault, sexual abuse, distribution or broadcasting of pornography, any sort of lewd conduct such as touching and fondling, stalking and annoying children, and child prostitution. The sexual abuse of a child by a parent, guardian, teacher, relative or acquaintance is an especially heinous crime because the abuser occupies a position of trust. More than 90 percent of abusing parents tend to be lonely, unhappy, angry, young, single parents who do not plan their pregnancies, have little or no knowledge of child development, and have unrealistic expectations for child behavior. Between 10 to 40 percent of abusive parents were themselves physically or sexually abused as children.
The long-term effects of sexual molestation include anxiety, depression, hostility, inappropriate behavior later in life, poor self-esteem, tendencies toward substance abuse, and difficulty with close relationships. For a child growing up in an environment of abuse, fear and persistent threat, learning cannot take place in the way it needs to, and neither can healthy relationships with peers or authority figures. A high percentage of sexual molestation takes place at school, a place where children should feel safe. When children are molested, they are violated in the worst possible way and their “right to life” is severely compromised, darkened and sometimes destroyed. A consistent tactic employed by abusers is blame and denial. Blame serves to keep pedophiles from feeling any shame, guilt, remorse or caring about the victim. A common example is, “It was not my fault, and she liked me to fondle her.”
Media and enemies are often blamed for exaggerating the accusation. Denial skirts responsibility by transferring blame elsewhere. A common example is, “This never happened” or “I was intoxicated at the time.” A common tactic frequently used when organizational leadership discovers sexual misconduct among their members is to do everything possible to hide the abuse in order to protect the perpetrator and avoid potential legal and political fallout. Thomas G. Plante, professor and chair of psychology at Santa Clara University and an expert in clergy sexual abuse, points out common features in virtually all sexual abuse of minors: First, a high ranking person, e.g., a teacher, violates professional and personal boundaries with a teenager. Superiors too often fail to act to protect the victim(s) in order to protect their colleague and the reputation of the organization. Second, exploitation of minors is not uncommon. Certain “signs” are evident, e.g., adults who prefer to spend time with minors, desire physical and emotional contact with minors, treat minors as equals, and use inappropriate language with minors. They become increasingly dependent on minors.
Third, 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women in the U.S. report that they were sexually violated as children. This factor predisposes them to repeat the abusive behavior as an adult in some twisted desire to free themselves from the childhood trauma. Fourth, some adults in positions of power and influence exploit their status by inappropriately, unethically and illegally sexually abusing vulnerable minors for their own sexual gratification. Many of these adults suffer from a variety of psychiatric disorders that often include alcohol abuse and lack of impulse control. A no-fault culture breeds irresponsibility.
When accountability, self-regulation and integrity are sidestepped, moral discourse spirals downwards into outward-directed blame. Constructive discourse requires taking seriously the need to bind ideals with consistent actions. To end, or at least blunt, the blame game, changes need to be made, including:
- Massive Education – facilitating awareness of appropriate behavior, and warning signals of harmful tendencies.
- Continuous Measurements – addressing all activities related to interactions with youth, including settings, content and supervision standards.
- Timely Legal Consequences –supported by authorities and society. Integrity-centered leaders accept accountability for protecting those who cannot protect themselves.
Civilized human beings make the world safer for the vulnerable, no matter when or where. President Thomas Jefferson said “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” If vigilance is the price of freedom, can responsible adults do less for any segment of society, especially the young?
How society expresses stewardship for the next generation offers insights into the health and viability of civilization. Organizations, from family to business enterprises, including social structures of all types, depend upon constructive education, nurture, recognition and safety. Care is not an option, but an obligation – personally and professionally, for those with whom we associate.
*From - The Valley Catholic Newspaper, The Diocese of San Jose, California, May 15, 2007
Our May 30, 2007, Integrity Matters newspaper column is about accountability: Leadership offers key to positive work atmosphere. To learn about four steps to sustaining success, at home and at work, read how responsible leadership is everyone’s job!
In closing, one more question, are you a potential Bracher Center client?
- Is your enterprise anticipating growth and organizational transition?
- Does your culture value people and superior leadership?
- Will you participate, directly, in improving team dynamics?
- If you answered "yes" to these questions, then let's talk.