Commentary

The exploitation of young people needs attention too

As the National Director of Cherish Our Children, a national community of
Lutherans dedicated to preventing the sexual exploitation of children, I would
like to thank and acknowledge the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality
for their diligent work to create the Draft Social Statement on Human
Sexuality.

I also affirm and encourage the attention given in this Draft Statement to
protecting children and young people from sexual exploitation. These
commitments by the ELCA are vital and urgent for the lives of children in our
communities:

Widespread electronic availability of violent and degrading pornography
threatens children and youth as well as adults. How to address this problem is
one of the most important child-protection issues of our time, and the
church should be an important voice in that conversation.” (Pages 26-27)

Children and youth are deeply influenced by media that emphasize sex
appeal. It is a formidable challenge to counter the appeal of popular culture
in clothing, music, and the media. Nevertheless, congregations can be
forums in which parents can express these concerns and explore solutions
together.” (Page 26)

Sexual safety is of overriding importance because the damage done to
children and youth through sexual abuse or molestation can be remarkably
deep and lasting. (Page 24)

This church also recognizes that congregations and other ministry sites must
continue in their efforts to be safe places for all persons. (Page 25)

[T]his church supports the prosecution of any individual who commits a
sexual crime against a minor. (Page 25)

This church strongly reaffirms its 2001 Message, ‘Commercial Sexual
Exploitation…’ (Page 25)

Given the recent news coverage about Elliot Spitzer and prostitution, this
message is excellent reading to understand the causes and harm of this form
of sexual exploitation. This document may be accessed at
www.elca.org/social statements/sexualex ploitation/.

This church should challenge and confront all those who legally profit from
the commodification of sexuality. (Page 43)

Building social trust means accepting our responsibility for shaping
structures and institutions that foster and influence social and market forces.
These are to support and contribute to strong relationships of trust and
accountability in which healthy sexuality might flourish. The pervasive
commercialization of the body presents a serious challenge which this church
must confront. (Page 2, Executive Summary)

One of our beliefs within the Cherish Our Children community is: “Love born
of faith in Jesus Christ calls us all to attend to, discuss, resist, and reject the
system of sexual exploitation.” (ELCA Message, Page 1)

The ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod, Northwest Synod ofWisconsin, and
Southwestern Minnesota Synod have Cherish Our Children leaders and
congregations which are living out this call.

Congregation members of many generations are praying for children ages
from birth to age 25, educating young people and parents about internet
safety, equipping young people to protect themselves from sexual
exploitation, and reaching out to support young people who have already
been exploited. As we continue to learn and grow as a community, we will
seek specific actions to impact the systems that sexually exploit our children.

Despite strong differences on other issues surrounding human sexuality,
there are shared concerns regarding preventing the sexual exploitation of
children. As we work together to create trustworthy families and
communities, as we love and care for our neighbor, as we protect the most
vulnerable among us, we will all do our part to cherish our children.

Amy Hartman is the national director of Cherish Our Children, a community
organization begun in the Minneapolis Area Synod (ELCA) to deal with how
young people experience sexual abuse and exploitation. For more
information, visit the Web site: www.cherishchildren.org.