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Sexual Abuse:Real Talk, Real Action

By on November 14, 2011

In the wake of the events that are emerging at Penn State University, it seems tantamount there be a discussion about sexual abuse and  increased advocacy for victims. There were a myriad of opinions about whether or not the football coaches of Penn State (e.g., Coach Paterno and Coach McQueary) should remain in their positions as questions arose about whether they did enough to stop the abuse by former Coach Sandusky. In an effort to move forward and re-establish stability, the Board of Trustees at Penn State University recently fired head coach, Joe Paterno because he only reported the alleged abusive incidents to his superiors and did nothing else to prevent it from happening again.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there are 80,000 reported cases of child abuse reported each year in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six men reported being sexually abused as children. Moreover, 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year and 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Some never disclose (Broman-Fulks et al., 2007)[1].Approximately 22% of the total number of cases are African American (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). This number does not include the number of unreported cases.

Sexual abuse in the African American community has rarely been talked about and there are few resources to support children in their families who have endured this trauma. While there are a handful of social service agencies and governmental programs that serve as conduits for healing, many victims remain unheard, invisible, and even dismissed when allegations emerge. When resources are available, very few families and individuals take advantage of counseling and advocacy services because of the stigma that is associated with sexual abuse. Parents who refuse to talk about sexuality health with their children; children “being seen and not heard”;opening up living quarters to extended family (e.g., uncles, aunts, cousins, etc); and the myth that Black boys welcome any type of sexual contact all contribute to the need for more education and awareness about this debilitating phenomena.

Given the circumstances around this tragic incident at Penn State University, it seems important that today’s modern Black man position himself to be an advocate for all—especially children. Today’s modern black man should be knowledgeable and comfortable with talking to children about healthy sexuality in a developmentally appropriate manner. In addition, he should be able to demonstrate courage and champion the rights of those who are traditionally underrepresented or underserved. This article is an open invitation and challenge for Black men to be willing to protect the rights of ALL children and bring light and voice to those who have been victimized.


1. Broman-Fulks, J. J. , Ruggiero, K. J., Hanson, R. F., Smith, D. W., Resnick, H. S., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Saunders, B. S. (2007). Sexual assault disclosure in relation to adolescent mental health: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 36, 260-266.


Dr. James Wadley is an Associate Professor andDirector of the Master of Human Services Program at Lincoln University. He is a licensed professional counselor and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist in the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is also a Contributor to healthyblackmen.org. Contact him at drjameswadley.com.

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