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Content Notice: This article is part of the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire. The purpose of this forum and the #LoveWITHAccountability project is to prioritize child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in national dialogues and work on racial justice and gender-based violence. Several of the featured articles in this forum give an in-depth and, at times, graphic examination of rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual harm against diasporic Black children through the experiences and work of survivors and advocates. The articles also offer visions and strategies for how we can humanely move towards co-creating a world without violence. Please take care of yourself while reading.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
A very loud silence surrounds matters of child sexual abuse in the African American community. This silence impairs healthy and appropriate dialogue on child sexual abuse in our families and communities. This silence dismisses and discredits the lived experiences of child sexual abuse survivors. This silence debilitates law, justice, and accountability for child sexual perpetrators. This silence also arrests the development and implementation of local and national initiatives aimed at fostering and expanding child sexual abuse advocacy, outreach, prevention, intervention, and treatment. The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program is a novel initiative that grew out of my discontent with this pervasive and painful silence, and my determination to speak out about child sexual abuse in the African American community. This brief reflection provides an overview of the Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program and the 5 Sexual Safety Affirmative Values that serve as a guiding framework in this intervention.
Child sexual abuse among African American children is a complex issue that warrants critical examination and the expansion of innovative and comprehensive solutions. The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program (Speak7) is a viable response to the crisis of child sexual abuse among African American children. Speak7 is a culturally sensitive and adult-focused child sexual abuse prevention program that was developed to enhance child sexual abuse prevention competence among adults who provide for African American children. This intervention integrates the best available child maltreatment, prevention, and African American cultural studies research to promote the safety and well-being of African American children. As a culturally sensitive initiative, Speak7 explicitly aims to foster a greater awareness of the scope and complexity of child sexual abuse among African American children, and to empower African American communities to exercise transformative agency to prevent child sexual abuse.
I believe adults bear primary responsibilities for child sexual abuse prevention and that a predominately child-focused approach unfairly places the burden of child sexual abuse prevention on children. With this in mind, Speak7 explicitly targets adults who provide for African American children as the subjects of this intervention. As adults, we create and sustain social and cultural norms that shape the environment in which we all live and directly impact child sexual abuse outcomes. Thus, we are responsible for challenging toxic attitudes and practices that foster child sexual abuse, and promoting healthy attitudes and practices that protect children and prohibit child sexual abuse.
The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program utilizes the 5 Sexual Safety-Affirmative Values, which serve as a guiding framework in this intervention. These values are vital to creating safe environments and preventing child sexual abuse among African American children. The 5 Sexual Safety-Affirmative Values include:
#1 Open & Honest Dialogue
We believe that child sexual abuse thrives in silence. We vow to regularly and honestly speak about child sexual abuse within our homes and communities.
#2 Child Empowerment
We believe in respecting and nurturing children’s personal power. We vow to educate children about child sexual abuse and to empower children to exercise agency over their bodies.
#3 Survivor Integrity
We believe that child sexual abuse survivors should be treated with respect, compassion, and dignity. We vow to acknowledge the lived experiences of child sexual abuse survivors and honor survivors’ voices and perspectives.
#4 Perpetrator Accountability
We believe that child sexual perpetrators need justice and accountability. We vow to report child sexual perpetrators to the appropriate authorities and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and receive treatment.
#5 Collective Healing
We believe that healing is the work and responsibility of the collective. We vow to acknowledge the harmful effects of sexual violence on individuals, families, and communities, and support treatment, healing, and recovery for child sexual abuse survivors.
The 5 Sexual Safety-Affirmative Values establish a set of guiding principles that prioritize the health and safety of children and survivors, and promote the broader well-being of African American children, families, and communities. Furthermore, Speak7 is an emergent child sexual abuse prevention initiative that is centered on the experience and needs of African American children. I believe that the child sexual abuse epidemic can be defeated and that Speak7 makes a valuable and promising contribution towards this end.
The Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program was developed by MiKeiya Morrow, M.A., Ed.S., doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Correspondence regarding the Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program may be submitted to MiKeiya Morrow at m.morrow “AT” uky “DOT” edu.
MiKeiya Morrow is a doctoral candidate in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Kentucky. She received a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Oklahoma City University and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Central Oklahoma. Her clinical interests include child maltreatment, sexual violence, PTSD, substance abuse, and serious mental illness. She has clinical training and experience working in residential substance abuse treatment, university counseling, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, and veterans hospitals. Her research agenda focuses on the primary prevention of child sexual abuse among African American children and the development of culturally sensitive prevention initiatives. MiKeiya is the creative developer of Speaking Spaces Org and the author of the Speak7 African American Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program. She is a dedicated children’s rights and social justice advocate, and is active in various local and national organizations. You can connect with Speaking Space Org on Facebook and follow them on twitter. MiKeiya may be reached at m.morrow “AT” nulluky “DOT” edu .