By Cheryl Mattox Berry
It looks like the #MuteRKelly movement is about to roll right over him. It’s about time. For the last five years, I’ve been asking fans to boycott his music and concerts, and pressure radio stations to stop playing his music.
All it took was for some high profile celebs – John Legend, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, DJ Tom Joyner and others – to speak out. Soon, I predict Kelly’s record label will drop him, fans who have given him a pass because he makes “great music” will turn their back on him, and he’ll get another day in court, hopefully with a long prison sentence.
Enough about the pedophile Kelly. We’ve spent the last few months outing sexual predators, now we need to turn our attention to girls who are suffering in silence. The ones who are being molested by family friends, relatives and others, and are too afraid to tell or don’t know how or who to tell.
Every city and county should have a program targeting sexual abuse, and there should be safe spaces where girls in crisis can seek help. By law, states require a teacher or school personnel to tell a counselor or administrator about any student who reports sexual abuse, but that’s not enough. There should be more than one place where girls, and even boys, can get help.
First, we have to teach girls that it’s not okay for someone to touch them in a sexual way. We’d like to think that mothers instill that message, but it doesn’t always happen. Many mothers are young, single women who lack parenting skills. They’re trying to balance work, a social life and motherhood, and their daughters don’t always get the attention, guidance and protection they need.
Second, we must get girls to understand that neither they nor their mother will be harmed by the person violating them. Explain that the offender is committing a crime and will be sent to prison if charges are filed, and she testifies against him in court. Instilling fear in victims allows the perpetrator to continue the abuse. Victims need to know that they have power, too, by reporting the crime to police.
These messages must be repeated to girls at home, school, church, mentoring groups, camps and social clubs. If they hear it enough, they’ll feel comfortable reporting abuse to a person of authority at any of these places.
It might help, too, if boys and girls are separated during a discussion about sexual abuse to avoid embarrassment when asking questions or sharing experiences.
The people chosen to give these talks must be a good listener, compassionate and non-judgmental. They should know how to encourage a girl to talk about what is happening to her. Training on how to spot and handle complaints about inappropriate sexual behavior should be mandatory for all men and women who work with children, not just teachers.
After the offender has been reported to police, the next step is therapy. Yes, a child who has been sexually abused needs to talk to a professional. Some mothers also might need counseling to learn how sexual abuse has long-term psychological and emotional effects on a child. She must be told the importance of keeping the person responsible for the abuse away from her daughter. Forever!
The #MakeThemHearYou is my own creation designed to fit issues that require women to speak up.