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Reflections on Generation FIVE Training (Dec.

2011) I get goosebumps when I reflect on the energy in the room at the fully accessible Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. Not only was I among a large group of people working to end child sexual abuse (CSA), I was among a large group of people willing to address the societal conditions that foster or allow CSA while holding the perpetrator(s) accountable in a humane way. This is the most difficult part of an already sensitive issue, and I do not know of any group other than Generation FIVE that takes this approach. I was honored to participate in its December training. In most of my circles, it is monumental to hear a simple admission that CSA is a serious and pervasive problem that must be addressed. Before the training I would not have had the nerve to argue that an alternative to retribution and/or prosecution in CSA cases exists. Now dare I say I am convinced that an alternative not only exists but is also viable and replicable. The alternative is called transformative justice and is meticulously described in a document available on Generation FIVEs website. For those unwilling to read the document in full, which I highly recommend, transformative justice is briefly defined as an approach which [sic] secures individual justice in cases of CSA while transforming structures of community and social injustice that are perpetuated by and perpetuate CSA. Its guiding principles are liberation, shifting power, safety, accountability, collective action, cultural relevance, and sustainability. The practices include building a collective, preparation and capacity building, naming and defining child sexual abuse, conducting assessment, developing a safety strategy, supporting healing and resilience, holding accountability, working for community transformation, and strengthening collective resistance. In small groups we attempted to apply all of this to a real-life situation involving a youth minister and several adolescent girls that Generation FIVE had addressed. The amount of work that goes into such an intervention is overwhelming. It is much easier as a bystander to call Child Protective Services or to do nothing at all, even though both of these options rarely lead to true safety and accountability. Given the amount of time and effort our plan took to develop, I can only imagine the amount of time and effort it would take to implement. One major thing I learned is that its not just about the perpetrator(s) and victim(s), to whom the focus generally lands, but also about the various bystanders between and around them some of whom act to protect the children while others do not. I never thought too much about the importance of bystanders until I became a counselor for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and realized just how significant they are in the context of CSA. I spent a lot of time thinking about such characters as the preacher in Grapes of Wrath and wondering if rapists and pedophiles could have redeeming qualities. It turns out that as much as keeping a child safe is a group effort, a group can also keep a child in danger by choosing to look the other way or stay silent. We are not yet at a point where individuals like Jerry Sandusky are exposed and stopped before they can harm multiple children.

CSA is also not an issue that is commonly understood as the groundbreaking 2004 film, The Woodsman, illustrates. We watched a few clips of it during the training to get a feel for the life of a sex offender branded by his shameful past. Even the sex offender was not aware of why he possessed the desire to engage in sexual activities with adolescent girls, and he certainly didnt have a warm, understanding community waiting for him when he returned from prison. Some characters in the movie spoke to him like he was less than a human being. Each of us in the training was asked in the beginning to make a commitment for the weekend. Mine was to strengthen my capacity to forgive, love, accept, and understand. I left with a better understanding of myself as well. I learned about some of my triggers through somatics exercises and how to set boundaries in a peaceful yet truthful way. Its intriguing how certain emotions can register in the body but not in the mind. These exercise helped me be more intuitive and observe others reactions (as well as my own) without focusing solely on their words. I plan to do more work on this in the future. The stories of pain and healing I heard were incredible in their depth and magnitude. CSA is something that affects everybody regardless of race, class, ability, and gender. It can occur in a variety of contexts. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about one in three women and one in six men report being sexually abused as children. Up to sixty percent of all cases involve a parent, so its important not to associate CSA with a creepy stranger hiding by the playground because it deflects attention away from the more likely sources of abuse close to or within the childs home. The fact that the majority of CSA cases involve men as the abusers indicates that it is primarily an act of privilege and power. Abusers are the least understood of all parties to a case of CSA. Some abusers target particular children they have access to already while others shape their entire lives around gaining access to vulnerable children. Many abusers have normal sexual relationships with other adults. Most people rely on preconceived notions of abusers and would not consider asking the abusers themselves what motivates them. What is clear based on research such as a Giaretto Institute study from 1995 is that CSA is cyclical and runs in families. Shame and fear uphold a culture of silence and ignorance that allows the abuse to continue across generations. Generation FIVE seeks to end CSA within five generations. The most pernicious aspect of CSA other than the invasive, destructive acts themselves is the effect on the abused. In addition to recent exposs in pop culture, such as the novels of Stieg Larsson and Khaled Hosseini, and lesser-known works such as the Scottish play To Kill a Kelpie, much research has been done on trauma, particularly as it relates to sexual violence, and I will not recycle it all here but will instead urge everyone who has had a bizarre intimate experience to consider the cause. Substance abuse is another notorious indicator. Even if you have delved deeply into your past and know that you were never sexually abused, you can still suffer from secondary trauma, which I had no comprehension of despite being trained to recognize it until I felt the anger, sadness, and despair of my clients as a crisis counselor for RAINN. After some

particularly difficult sessions, I would go to bed crying and/or have nightmares about what I had heard. Some reactions do not develop until long after the incident because the individual simply was not capable of understanding or facing what occurred in the moment. Before we have built up the necessary resilience that allows us to respond to traumatic situations rather than react to them, we often freeze, flee, or submit when confronted with a threat. This is pure survival mode. The flight can be psychological as well as physical, yet trauma has a way of returning no matter how deeply buried until it is processed fully (this is usually done with the help of a therapist) and even then certain triggers remain. I have spoken to CSA survivors who are triggered by simple objects, sounds, and scents several decades after the abused occurred. If I had been abused a year ago today, that alone could be enough to cause my body and mind to react as if it were occurring now. I want to come back to the term resilience. This is critical given the societys general neglect of the scourge of CSA and the conditions that maintain it. It can be just as difficult to have an honest conversation about patriarchy, sexism, heterosexism, racism, ageism, ableism, economic exploitation, and Christian supremacy as it is to have one about CSA, and each of these forms of oppression are linked to CSA. The larger society is far from the level of enlightenment achieved by Generation FIVE and my fellow trainees, and I do not say this to be condescending but to be realistic. We must acknowledge that it will take time to create the abuse- and exploitation-free world we know is possible. Until that day I thrive by building connections with likeminded people, influencing others who are not quite there, and serving the larger community. My work with the D.C. Rape Crisis Center combines all three. As a male volunteer I am not permitted to provide direct services to clients. I wrote a proposal to change that, and in order to put it together I had to consult with likeminded people. In order to get it approved, I will have to influence those who do not agree with the cause. When it is approved, it will serve the larger community by expanding the pool of eligible volunteers in direct services and this is just one benefit. If the task seems overwhelming and institutions are out of reach or out of touch, the logical starting point is within ones family even though this will likely be the most touchy and difficult context in which to address CSA. I am still working to develop a way to connect with my own family on the subject, but it is fortunate that I have not had to initiate the conversation because I am not the only member of my family concerned about this issue and brave enough to speak on it. Christmas day proved to be as good a day as any to dig up past incidents and their present consequences. I only hope that we make it our New Years Resolution to either begin or continue the fight against CSA wherever it exists and to do our part to help the millions of people affected by it.