Once again, child sexual abuse allegations have people everywhere shaking their heads in disbelief. Anger and frustration fill the airwaves, news columns, and blogs with questions like "Who should have done what?" "How did this happen?" and "How did it go unreported for so long?"
Child sexual abuse is a problem in all of our communities, not just at Penn State.
"Stranger danger" has often been over emphasized by those who would keep children safe from predators. While studies have shown that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the age of 18, the sad truth is that 90 percent of victims know the offenders well. They are relatives, friends, neighbors, and, as alleged in the Penn State case, coaches.
Understanding what keeps child victims of sexual abuse silent is easy. They fear that revealing the abuse will bring harm to them or those they love, loss of affection, and punishment. Child sexual abuse is a crime that thrives in a climate of silence, secrecy and shame. Fear is what offenders count on as they groom their victims.
What is not so easily explained is the silence of adult witnesses to such crimes. But if the problem is a lack of information about how to report such abuse and what will happen as a result, we must make sure that information is more widely known and understood.
When a report of child sexual abuse is made to the police or the Department of Health and Human Resources in Randolph or Tucker counties, there is a partnership in place to ensure the abuse ends, that the child has a safe place to talk about what happened, and that the child and his or her family get all the services they need to start healing. The Randolph-Tucker Children's Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that responds to allegations of abuse, is part of that partnership.
It is easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed in the face of the headlines. It is harder to turn our anger and frustration into positive action for victimized children.
Will you make a pledge today to help in any way to stop this abuse? Visit our website, www.rtcac.com or call us at 304-630-2214 to find out how you can help. Will you be One with Courage www.onewithcourage.org? Please become a Steward of Children today, www.rtcac.com/events.
To report suspected child abuse, call your local WV Department of Health and Human Resources in Randolph or Tucker County, 304-637-5560 or the 24-hour, 7-day-a-week hotline at 1-800-352-6513.
Randolph-Tucker Children's Advocacy Center