It takes more than trust to protect children and others from being preyed upon, especially when the predators are teachers, coaches, mentors.

I was in high school when a trusted adult initiated me into the world of adulthood. I regret that I did not have the courage, confidence or mindset to tell anyone.

Thirty years later, his predatory pattern is clear to me: This “trusted man” was not just a mentor, but an abuser.

Nearly every week, there is a story in the news reporting the sexual abuse of a minor. It goes on despite heightened social awareness of it and stronger Maine laws, including laws that now support those under 18 years old and the elimination of a statute of limitations.

It is crucial that parents, children, teens and peers talk about ways to handle abusive situations without shame, guilt or fear of punishment. Not all stories of sexual abuse are sensational, yet the power imbalance that can lead to such abuse is in every school, and the effects on victims are lasting.

We cannot always trust that an adult will act appropriately, and a young person is not always the best judge of what counts as appropriate. We must be vigilant.

If something makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t seem right, ask a question. Sometimes a simple intervention is all it takes to disrupt a potentially damaging situation and protect the future of a young person, so they may make their own choices and feel safe doing so.

Susan Volmer


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