Jolie Logan, President & CEO of Darkness to Light, reflects on 2012 and looks ahead to 2013 in this feature interview by The Post & Courier

Darkness to Light leader looks ahead after high-profile sex abuse cases

By Jennifer Berry Hawes, The Post & Courier - posted Saturday January 5, 2013

Jolie Logan, CEO, Darkness to Light (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 12/31/12
Photo: (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 12/31/12

Just weeks after Logan was named president and CEO of the child sexual abuse prevention group, a yearlong onslaught of headlines began to reveal everything from horrific locker room shower assaults at Penn State to porn and masturbation sessions with summer campers at The Citadel.

And it didn’t stop with Sandusky and ReVille.

Longtime BBC children’s television host Jimmy Savile, who died at 84, may have abused as many as 300 people over 40 years, authorities have said. The Boy Scouts of America released records that detailed sex-abuse allegations against volunteers. Even the voice of “Sesame Street’s” Elmo faced allegations of engaging in sexual relations with underage teens.

Suffice it to say, as Darkness to Light’s new president, Logan faced a year of great challenge and great reward, given the group’s mission to generate public awareness that can help eradicate abuse.

After 10 years in the private sector, Logan joined the Charleston-based national nonprofit in 2008 as chief operating officer. Within three years, she was appointed president and chief executive officer.

Darkness to Light’s mission to prevent child sexual abuse remains deeply personal and professional. Already, Logan has consulted with the National Association of Attorneys General, legislators and many youth and community groups.

Logan, a single mother of two children ages 9 and 12, reflects on the lessons of the past year as she plans for 2013.

Q. You began working at Darkness to Light in 2008. Has the climate for victims changed since then?

A. More people across the nation are now talking about the prevention of child sexual abuse (CSA) than ever before.

That is a huge, positive step because communities can only begin prevention efforts if they are able to engage in discussion and openly talk about this very difficult subject.

Unfortunately, perpetrators will always look for ways to get close to and alone with children, so the climate for potential victims is still pervasive. That’s why it is so important to keep the issue at the forefront and continuously teach prevention strategies.

Q. From Jerry Sandusky to Skip ReVille, 2012 was a huge one for high-profile child sexual abuse cases. How does that affect your job?

A. There’s no question that 2012 was a true benchmark for raising public engagement to all-time highs.

We have been able to reach wider audiences by encouraging media outlets to also focus on prevention — what we should do now to protect our children — rather than just sordid details of the criminal acts.

We have also seen an increase in youth-serving organizations, schools, colleges, businesses, etc., asking us to help them implement prevention training for their staff, students and others, which is an important tool. These trained employees and participants then take their knowledge home to their children, their neighborhoods and their team sports groups.

Q. How do these high-profile cases affect victims? Do they make them more or less likely to come forward?

A. It is our hope that victims may find support, encouragement and understanding through the voices of victims in other cases.

The most important thing we can do as a community is to listen when someone is trying to find the words to talk about abuse. We should believe them. We should let them know it was not their fault.

Q. In these cases, the perpetrators often were men in positions of authority over their victims. Is this an accurate portrait of abusers?

A. Only in the sense that many perpetrators share the same desire to exert power over innocent victims. The truth is, perpetrators come from all segments of society, not just authority figures. In 95 percent of abuse cases, victims know their perpetrators: a neighbor, family friend, older children or family members.

Q. Some people don’t think that sexual abuse affects them. How prevalent is it?

A. Child sexual abuse affects all of society. In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

When untreated, CSA is linked to a host of social issues including teen pregnancy, psychiatric disorders and substance abuse.

CSA ranks second to murder as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S., where costs exceed $35 billion annually (according to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect report to Congress in 2010).

It’s important to note that the consequences of CSA can be minimized or even prevented through effective treatment.

Q. Only one in 10 abused children will tell someone, according to estimates. What are the biggest hurdles to coming forward?

A. Perpetrators often groom their victims into silence, to make them feel ashamed, as though the abuse is the child’s fault.

Children also often do not have the coping mechanisms to understand how to ask for help. Again, it’s so important to listen to our children, to talk to them about improper touching, or allowing them in situations where they are alone with adults one-on-one.

Q. Are there signs we can watch for that might warn us that a child is a victim of child sexual abuse?

A. A change in behavior is a key warning sign. A child may seem anxious at being left alone with a certain adult, may use improper language or show improper touching of other children.

A formerly outgoing child may show signs of being withdrawn or untalkative. Most importantly, we should listen to what our children are telling us.

Parents can take prevention a step further by seeking out organizations that have undergone 100 percent staff training to prevent CSA. It’s known as “Partner in Prevention” and is part of Darkness to Light’s certification program for organizations.

Q. Are there indicators someone might be an abuser or things that parents and others should be leery of?

A. Perpetrators will look for ways to immerse themselves in situations or organizations involving children and will find opportunities to have private time with a child. But that certainly does not mean that every teacher or youth camp counselor is suspect.

Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children prevention training workshops teach many strategies to guard against child sexual abuse. At the top of the list is to guard against situations that would allow adult-and-child, one-on-one, private encounters.

It is a sad statement on our society today, but even a ride home from baseball practice by a coach or individual parent should be avoided.

Q. Why don’t more people contact authorities with their suspicions?

A. What we have found is that people genuinely DO want to do the right and proper thing to act on suspicions.

However, CSA has been a hushed issue in our society for so long, many times families especially want to handle things internally and hope the issue goes away. The Penn State/Sandusky case was a classic example of an institution acting like a protective family and dealing with accusations on their own.

We are now working with numerous organizations, schools, colleges, universities and other groups to develop specific policy on reporting child sexual abuse.

Organizations everywhere are now coming to terms with the idea that they must show leadership on sexual abuse prevention — or risk a Penn State-like response.

Q. A National Institute of Justice study found that child sexual abuse costs the U.S. roughly $35 billion a year. What goes into that?

A. The estimate is actually a very conservative number given the lifelong impacts that afflict so many of this nation’s 42 million adult child sexual abuse survivors. It includes everything from teen pregnancy to drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, court costs, etc.

Q. What brought you to Darkness to Light?

A. I am drawn to D2L’s powerful mission: to engage public discussion on one of society’s most difficult subjects and to teach one adult, one organization, one community at a time. To be part of something that is truly making a difference both nationwide and overseas, each and every day.

D2L has sparked a movement that is changing beliefs and actions in this country. This is an incredible time to be a part of such an organization.

Q. What is your greatest success to date?

A. In sheer numbers, D2L has affiliates in all 50 states, 16 foreign countries and has trained more than 385,000 adults on how to keep kids safe. And a great success came in 2012 when The Citadel became the first college in America to mandate CSA prevention training for all staff and students in order to graduate.

Our partnership with YMCAs across the country have opened more doors than we ever could have done on our own.

Q. What is your greatest challenge moving forward?

A. Keeping the movement of prevention healthy and engaging while not coming across as alarmists. It is always important to keep our message fresh, unique and relevant.

Supporting the tremendous growth of our program all over the country with only a small team of full-time employees in Charleston.

We need to see a significant culture change — in the way that seat belts and drunken driving laws changed culture. Both of those efforts were put in place to prevent deaths on the roads and have made a big difference.

Similarly, if we can make it unacceptable for adults in youth-serving organizations to have private one-on-one time with children, we’ll make great strides in preventing child sexual abuse. This isn’t a perfect solution, as it only addresses abuse within organizations and not within families, but it’s a start and it would be significant.

Q. Tell us about some of your plans for 2013.

A. A new and expanded version of our Stewards of Children education program will be released this summer.

We also are working to grow prevention initiatives on the West Coast.

And more milestones are on the horizon for 2013. We hope to top 400,000 trainings this year, and we now have more than 100 organizations nationwide that have achieved our Partner in Prevention designation.

One Response to Jolie Logan, President & CEO of Darkness to Light, reflects on 2012 and looks ahead to 2013 in this feature interview by The Post & Courier

  • Jennifer Bernard says:

    Awesome work! The only thing i would say is that coming across as an alarmist isn’t a bad thing in my mind if the situation is serious enough, which it is. We live in a society that wants to give everyone a slap on the wrist regardless of the severity of the crime. A society that is afraid to discipline their children and even stand up for their children’s safety! However, i do understand that the paranoid alarmist approach scares people off to not be receptive or attentive to the goals D2L wishes to achieve to make a drastic difference in preventing child sexual abuse. I applaud your efforts and am very delighted that i stumbled upon this organization today :)

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