The real hope in making child abuse the exception and not the rule, lies within you. Today most people mistakenly believe that simply making a social media post actually does something about the problem. You’ll see people post articles about a freak hurting kids on social media. There are usually a lot of responses. Everything from “This is terrible” to “If I got my hands on that……..” You’ll hear “sage” advice that there’s nothing that can be done.

You’ll hear excuses like “wait until they get them in prison” “Good luck in the shower with Bubba” and yes those are excuses, they are reasons people use as justification for not acting. Politics will rear its head and each side will claim the other is hurting children and they are the party of child protection. In truth neither side has done much. Often they make it worse. Yet, we could virtually stop (never completely but close) the abuse of our children, and with such little effort it stuns me that we haven’t done it yet.

Honestly, no matter how enraged you get, few people are going to tackle this problem firsthand. Few people are capable of that. I’m sorry but if you’re middle aged and have spent years with a lot of free time on the couch and eating donuts and drinking beer, your anger is not going to magically transform you into an MMA champ or a special forces soldier.

The people that traffic children by the way are often Cartel, Eastern European Mob etc. Not every predatory pedophile is diminutive and wears thick glasses. Often these are people skilled in violence and if they can hurt children for pleasure or profit, your anger isn’t going to shield you from them.

Those that do undertake careers where they rescue children should be acknowledged and applauded. If you are starting out and want that, God Bless you. It is not an easy life. Although I have not, by any means, spent my whole career only physically rescuing children, I have done it a few times. From those few times, I can tell you, should this be your career, it will cause you pain like nothing else. You will carry that around with you for the rest of your life. It will not be easy. Memories of horrible things will be what you think of when you wake at 3am.

If you added up all the children he saved from his law practice, as well as doing things like taking underage kids off pimps, or grabbing them before the pimps could at the bus station, if you take into account almost every waking moment of his adult life was spent objectively studying the problem, studying predators, saving children, Andrew Vachss personally saved thousands.

Before he died, he told me although he was very gratified at having saved so many children (for which he never sought accolades) he was haunted by the fact he would soon leave this world and have done little to stop the problem. Thousands of kids is not a drop in the bucket, it’s a drop in an ocean. That is why he directed his last energies frequently toward the Legislative Drafting Institute For Child Protection. A team of professionals, attorneys knowledgeable in child protection who could draft bullet proof legislation for politicians. You can read more about their mission here

Years ago, when he and I first became friends, he posted an article about abuse. He never did so for shock value. He had a point to it. I responded as so many do. “If I had that bastard, I’d hang him in the basement on a meet hook and use him as a heavy bag.” And man, did I feel good. The image of me doing something that I’d never do, I’m sure my chest puffed out. And his response stopped me cold.

“What good does that do, John?”

And with an ego as massive as mine, there was hurt, anger, surprise. “Aren’t *YOU* Andrew Vachss? Don’t you hate these people? Why would you say that?” I inquired what he meant. Bottom line: I let off some steam and was happy to go about my life and I made not one bit of difference. How many times had I done that?

The quote I remember from 5 Rings is “The truth is not what you want it to be, it is what it is. Bend to it, or live a lie.” My bruised ego aside, Andrew was right and I was ashamed. Years in my work had brought me firsthand experience with child abuse while shielding three family members from abuse gave me experience on a personal level. I knew everything he had ever written about child protection was right, based on my experience, common sense, and logic.

He responded further: “If you had taken that energy and put it into a letter to the prosecutor, "I want the MAX, NO SWEETHEART PLEA DEALS. AND I VOTE." It might have done something. If I recruited 5 people and they each got another 5 to do the same thing, well, you know politicians. *THAT* would make a difference.

Why would it make a difference? Because politicians are conscientious? No. They want to keep their jobs. If I didn’t at that point do what I could to help with this cause, I would be a hypocrite. Well we can’t have that. Thus here we are.

Andrew said to me our greatest hope lies with the people. The voter. If ALL the children of the secret and those that love and support them rose up as a voting block, it would dwarf all other lobbies. So why is change so slow? There has been some change but not near enough. For there to be change all we need from you, is 10 maybe 15 minutes a week. Your vote. Maybe give worthwhile charities, a week’s worth of Starbucks when you have coffee home that week.

Here is the formula and it’s simple. It need not be your only cause.

First: Learn about the problem. Not rhetoric. Not from political hacks. Go to specifically the articles Andrew wrote for Parade Magazine. Start with “The Difference Between Sick And Evil.” Read it a few times. Take some notes. Read a new article each week. In a short time, you will have a working understanding of child protection and what we need to do.

Second: let your politicians know, you insist *REAL* Child Protection measures are a platform issue of theirs. Insist that you know what they will do and how they will do it. Let them know that they don’t get your vote, if they don’t do that.

Third: Join with others and adopt those principles Andrew laid out. There is strength in numbers. I participate in two online Facebook groups: “Children of the Secret” which I started, and “Andrew Vachss Official Group The Zero” which he asked me to start. You are welcome.

Fourth: Objectively identify a charity that would help and give what you can. Don’t put yourself in straights and don’t give if you are not able. But you can still share the word. The Legislative Drafting Institute is one, The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children is another. Whatever charity you contribute to, ask what exactly do they do and where exactly does the money go.

We have to get past politicians saying, “I love children” and accepting that. I want to know what they are going to do. Support them if they try and make it known when they lie. I am currently working on a bipartisan lobbying group “The Child Protection Constituency” where we hope to enlist regardless of political party, where your vote is promised to the candidate who makes this a platform issue. Don’t worry, if their side adopts it and wins your side will do the same by the next election cycle.

As important as the front lines are, without support they collapse. We need laws that keep predators away from children and we need to support the people in the fight by being in it with them. Andrew often said “The protection of children is the only “holy war” worthy of the name. Give us fifteen minutes a week and join us in that fight.

And yes folks, that is the key, this surprisingly little bit of action is what makes change. You can overflow with righteous anger, throw a couple of bucks at something, post on social media, and feel better or, you can give us just 15 minutes a week and actually do something. Politicians will comply when they realize their jobs are on the line. You have to hold them, your side as well as the other side, and yourself, accountable.

There are thousands of people every day whose lives revolve around protecting children. They, because of the pain and anguish they go through, knowing they can never help them all, the sacrifices they make, deserve our help. If you can or want to do more great, I’m with you there. Maybe writing a letter is not as “cool” as kicking in a door, but if we don’t make changes in the laws and how the system often fails at child protection, there will never be the change we need. Worse, there will never be the change our children need.