The month of April serves as sexual assault prevention month and is a time of year dedicated to raising awareness about this serious issue, along with the steps we can take to protect our children against sexual violence. While several complex factors influence the incidence of sexual assault, statistics reveal that the presence of a child’s biological father in his or her life can help reduce its occurrence. Alternatively, father absence can have serious negative effects. As explained by acclaimed Chicago Divorce Attorney Jeffery Leving in his ground breaking book “Fathers’ Rights,” 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes, and only 3.5% of those children live with their dads. This means that more than 17.4 million children are growing up fatherless. The effects of father absence are dramatic:
- Sixty percent of rapists were raised in fatherless home;
- A growing body of evidence establishes a high correlation between fatherlessness and violence among young men (especially violence against women); and
- The absence of a biological father increases by 900 percent a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse (often these assaults are committed by stepfathers or the boyfriends of custodial mothers.
On the contrary, father involvement brings positive benefits to children and significantly improves children’s self-esteem, making them less likely to become victims of destructive or violent relationships.
Leving, who co-authored Illinois’ joint-custody law notes, “Supporting fathers’ custody rights and allowing biological fathers to maintain their relationship with their children father post-divorce is a critical step in protecting against sexual violence.”
With the month of April designated as sexual assault awareness month, now is a good time to reflect upon the powerful impact dads have on preventing sexual violence.
About Jeffery Leving: Attorney and author Jeffery Leving has spent more than 30 years obtaining legal and social reforms for children and families. He founded the Fatherhood Educational Institute (www.fatherhood-edu.org) a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive father involvement. His most recent book, How to Be a Good Divorced Dad, which received praise from President Obama, and was endorsed by Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
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