As a part of her ongoing education, my wife was signed up to attend a seminar on how to identify and prevent the sexual abuse of children. Nervous about facing such daunting subject matter alone, she asked if I would attend with her. I agreed, and was informed that although it began immediately after I got off work there would be a “snack supper” provided to the attendees. From past experience with the term “snack supper” I assumed this meant I would be provided with cubed cheese and cocktail weenies until I could get to a Wendy’s.
Fortunately, the coordinators had provided a spaghetti and tater-tot main course which was both delicious and filling. As with many of these events, we were seated at round tables with other attendees which meant we found ourselves in the company of a young woman we had never met before. We made the requisite small talk and then we were handed a pre-course evaluation quiz meant to gauge our current level of knowledge concerning sexual abuse in minors.
All questions were presented in a true/false format and while some were well-worded and concise, a few proved to be difficult to answer. One in particular that generated some discussion between us and our table-mate was, “Victims of childhood sexual abuse are statistically more likely to develop cancer and type 2 diabetes as adults.”
At first glance, we were all tempted to mark this one as false. After all, how could one draw a direct line from childhood sexual trauma to adult cancer? However, I began to reason out-loud that such trauma could perhaps lead to anxiety and addictive behavior which could in turn manifest itself as a nicotine habit which is statistically-likely to lead to a cancer diagnosis. My wife, eagerly jumping on this train of thought, added that the same anxiety and behavior could lead to compulsive overeating which, one could argue, is a harbinger for type 2 diabetes.
Basking in the glow of our impeccable reasoning, we glanced at our table-mate for input but she appeared to have become somewhat sullen. A few moments later, she left the table to smoke a cigarette and returned to the table with a plate of two-dozen tater-tots which she consumed in silence.
Once again, I had managed to place my foot directly into my mouth but quickly rejected the idea of addressing it. What would I even say? “I know earlier my wife and I implied that a nicotine habit and robust appetite could indicate child-hood abuse and an untimely demise but we weren’t talking about you just because you enjoy menthols and have a penchant for tater-tots.” I decided that any continued conversation would be futile so we simply waited for the next video segment where a woman with severe eyebrows would lead us through the participant guide.
At the course’s conclusion (which was extremely worthwhile even if from a parenting perspective) we were given a post-training quiz. As the facilitator walked us through the correct answers on the post-quiz, several attendees would speak the answers out loud. For the most part, this process was handled with the dignity and emotional gravity demanded by the subject matter.
There was, however, one table that seemed to be under the impression that we were participating in bar trivia. As one speaker was leading us through statistics they would often shout “True” or “False” ahead of the conclusion of the sentence. There was also a few extremely awkward moments of inappropriate clapping if their answers were correct:
Speaker - 90% of child abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the family knows an……
Table 3 –True! True!
Speaker – That is true. [Clapping from table 3]
At least they weren’t taking shots for correct answers.
All in all, I would encourage anyone to attend child-abuse awareness training as we should take every opportunity to end this scourge that has tainted so many lives. Just try to refrain from victory dances when you correctly guess a statistic.