Editorial: A call to arms

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The pictures staring out at us of the troubled faces of recent runaways in yesterday’s Daily Observer were haunting. Notwithstanding some of the smiles, their innocence and the nagging sense that something is not quite right, could not escape us. We have no idea what is the problem (and each situation has its own troubling peculiarities), but that is why we are issuing a call to arms in defence of our young people, especially our girls.
Cleon Athill, a former teacher at the Princess Margaret School and trained professional counselor and past head of the Department of Youth Affairs, spoke quite passionately about getting serious if we are to save this generation. She made her remarks to Daren Matthew Ward on yesterday’s Observer AM, to mark the end of “Sixteen Days of Activism To End Violence Against Women and Girls.” The end of the days of activism came on the United Nations declared Human Rights Day, and as Athill was careful to point out, violence against women and girls is a most dastardly violation of human rights.
We also note that Athill spoke to the issue of men recognising that they have a major role to play in helping solve the problem. Of course, if there is a voice that ought to be taken seriously, it is that of Cleon Athill. She has been a tireless advocate and bulwark on matters pertaining to gender affairs and youth empowerment. We also cannot ignore the voices of the many young woman and girls who are crying out for understanding and attention. It can no longer be business as usual! Perhaps a task force ought to be set up to investigate and compile the data as to why girls are running away, what services are being provided to assist in them overcoming their issues (if there are any) and being made whole. The task force also ought to be looking into why allegations of abuse and the whisperings of sex trafficking are not being taken as seriously as we believe they ought to be. Why are there incidences of repeat ‘runawayism.’ Is there abuse and dysfunction in the home? Is there drug and alcohol abuse? And what are the enticements being used by the predators? Moreover, notwithstanding considerations of privacy, why aren’t there more prosecutions for those who prey on young girls? Clearly, much like the uncaring folk in the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, we are crossing the street and averting our eyes – too caught up in our own worlds and daily lives to do something.
Of course, by not speaking out or merely paying lip service to the cause of helping our troubled teens, we become enablers. Indeed, the blood of these victims is on our hands. Consider, in a disturbing report by the United States Olympics Committee (USOC) (and you can read excerpts in today’s Daily Observer sports section) the conclusion was that, “While [Larry] Nassar bears ultimate responsibility for his decades-long abuse of girls and young women, he did not operate in a vacuum . . . instead, he acted within an ecosystem that facilitated his criminal acts.” (Nassar was the twisted USA Gymnastics team doctor who was convicted of molesting 265 girls.) Hmmmm! Think, “If you see something, say something!”
This reminds us of the Penn State University tragedy where coach Mike McQueary saw the pervert, Jerry Sandusky, bathing with, and inappropriately frolicking with little boys, and failed to report it. It was clear that Sandusky’s behavior was sick, but those who saw something or suspected that something was amiss, never said a word. Three other Penn State officials were charged with “failure to report suspected cases of child abuse.” The legendary head coach, Joe Paterno, was also relieved of his duties at the university. Their silence gave consent. Let us not be guilty of giving tacit approval to abuse and violence against women, girls and boys.
Let us answer the clarion call to arms, and not only speak out, but heck, shout out! Let us do something meaningful.

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