Violence against children encompasses all forms of violence against those under the age of 18, regardless of who the perpetrator may be. According to a 2016 study, it is estimated that up to 1 billion children globally – over half of all children – between the ages of 2-17 have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect.
Moreover, according to a 2014 UNICEF study titled “Hidden in Plain Sight,” globally at least 120 million girls below the age of 20 (1 in 10), have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. While boys are also sexually-abused, they experience sexual violence to a lesser extent. According to the same study, global estimates of sexual violence experienced by boys were unavailable due to the lack of comparable data in most countries, as boys are less likely to report incidents of sexual abuse.
The statistics are overwhelming, and in need of no further elaboration as the numbers speak for themselves. Child sexual abuse is impartial to race, religion or culture; it is a prevalent pandemic that seemingly has no end. The initiation of non-profit organisations, campaigns and initiatives advocating for increased awareness of child sexual abuse are undeniable strides towards curbing the incidences of child sexual abuse.
Personally, I have always felt that to see results, to see progress when it comes to the issues that plague our world today, we need to invest in education, and use it as a tool to combat hate, prejudice, and malevolence.
However, it is imperative that individuals are aware of ways in which they alone can strive to make change and shelter children from the pure malice that is abuse. Personally, I have always felt that to see results, to see progress when it comes to the issues that plague our world today, we need to invest in education, and use it as a tool to combat hate, prejudice, and malevolence. And that is exactly what Shariea Shoatz is doing.
Shariea Shoatz is a survivor of child sexual abuse and has dedicated her life to advocating and educating the masses on child abuse. Travelling around the States, she presents workshops to parents and caregivers on pinpointing the signs of abuse and supporting and protecting children. Shariea Shoatz is the author of a book titled “My Voice Is My Super Power”; a book that teaches children to recognize and use the autonomy they have over their bodies and encourages them to use their voices if they find themselves in situations in which they feel uncomfortable or threatened.
“Parents and caregivers have a responsibility to keep children safe from being sexually abused. Many want to but are uncertain how. Teaching body safety through a book is one tool used to help educate, empower, and reduce children’s vulnerability to sexual abuse predators.”
The book discusses the “Body Safety Rules,” a method that fosters the encouragement of body awareness in children. Shoatz felt that in order to prevent child sexual assault, adults needed to understand the importance of protecting children. When discussing what prompted her to write her book, Shoatz said, “Parents and caregivers have a responsibility to keep children safe from being sexually abused. Many want to but are uncertain how. Teaching body safety through a book is one tool used to help educate, empower, and reduce children’s vulnerability to sexual abuse predators.”
Shariea Shoatz is no stranger to the self-blame that often torments victims of sexual abuse when their experiences are not believed. “My Voice Is My Super Power” is a way of ensuring that adults support children when they voice any abuse they may have been subjected to. The book is written in a way that is child-friendly, making it one that can be integrated within a number of educational settings, including Islamic schools.
Shariea Shoatz recognizes the importance of training school staff, as well as the creation of policies that have zero tolerance for any from of inappropriate behaviour. Moreover, when it comes to body safety, Shoatz believes that children should begin to learn about body safety by the age of three, teaching pre-schoolers that it isn’t acceptable to touch someone in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
The basis of Shariea Shoatz’s work and her child sexual abuse safety book is the utilization of education for the purpose of prevention. To see a black, Muslim woman bringing the topic of child sexual abuse to the limelight, especially in Muslim and black communities, is nothing short of amazing. Too often, as a community we tend to shy away from these conversations, citing them as inappropriate. But what we need to understand is that nothing is going to change if we don’t talk about it, especially to children.
If children are not aware of the agency they have over their bodies, and the power behind their words and voices, how can we expect them to protect themselves, and feel confident enough to voice their experiences? In addition, educators, parents and caregivers need to be able to discern the warning signs of abuse and act accordingly. These are the first steps that need to be taken if we wish to protect children and drastically reduce instances of child sexual assault. People like Shariea Shoatz have already set the pace. It’s up to the rest of us to follow their example.