Parenting, innocence, and the threat of sexual abuse

A Christian Science perspective: How a mom responded when a man who lived in the same apartment complex was rumored to be a pedophile.

Innocence looks to have taken some hits lately, as long-term sexual abuse scandals have been uncovered in the United States. These crimes have targeted children, and, at least in my community, have prompted a greater concern among parents, teachers, and coaches, who want to keep kids safe. To protect themselves, some coaches are even adjusting their habits so that they’re never again alone with a student athlete.

Perhaps a new era is emerging, with greater sensitivity for children’s well-being. This kind of alertness is a sign of progress. Those who want to support this progress might find prayer a good place to start.

I find that prayer opens me to practical, healing ideas, coming from God. In this way, prayer can support the innocence that’s within each of us, along with supporting wholesome interactions and activity in the community.

My family and I once lived in the same apartment complex as a man who many neighbors suspected was a pedophile, although no one had witnessed any inappropriate actions. My young children and I often chatted with this man, and once another mom chided me and advised us to avoid him.

I had to admit that I did have some fears about this neighbor. Even though I was friendly to him, inside I wondered, when the kids and I ran into him, whether my presence was the only thing shielding them from possible harm. But I also knew that avoidance and fear were not really a solution.

Was there a way that my family could promote a safe, supportive atmosphere for everyone?

I honestly didn’t know if this neighbor had any criminal offenses on his record. However, I didn’t feel totally in the dark – previous experience had shown me that prayer could quell fears and help me think clearly and make good decisions. I already knew that I wasn’t going to leave my kids alone with him. A spiritual outlook about this situation would further protect my family, my neighbors, and this man himself.

A statement by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, came to mind: “Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 256). It is an idea I have relied on many times while raising my kids. The bulk of parenting does not rest on my shoulders – the kids are guided by a divine loving presence, too.

Furthermore, there was a brotherhood for everyone involved, with Love, or Principle, as our divine Parent. Right in the apartment’s public courtyard, this balanced and complete spiritual Parent was a presence I could appeal to. Innocence, as a quality of Love, was undergirding us. And this divine Love leads us in bringing out the innate goodness in each of us while also helping us take proper care of our children in the process. In fact, prayer along these lines can even uncover wrongdoing or wrong intentions, and so protect children from wrong actions against them.

With these prayers, I found myself feeling less afraid and more empowered. The atmosphere adjusted so that when the kids and I would run into this man and chat, other neighbors and their children would come join the group. Tension eased a bit, and the accusations about his behavior stopped. He began to open up to my husband and me, not just joke with the kids. When we moved from the complex about a year later, he thanked my family for our friendship. It had meant more to him than I’d realized.

Prayer for kids’ safety and prayer in support of everyone’s God-given innocence are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they work together. When we’re less afraid, we can act in ways that support others, even those who seem suspicious, while maintaining our own safety. Our prayers, high standards, and balanced expectations can provide a more supportive context for their own healing. I so value this kind of prayer in support of innocence because neither fear nor naiveté has made me a better parent and community member in the way that this kind of prayer has.

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