Domestic abuse and sexual assault are among the violent crimes we'd like to think don't happen in our communities, but we all know they do occur.
These also are among a nature of crimes in which the victims tend to keep quiet. However, talking is just what they - or others who have knowledge of incidents - should do.
Local health care providers and state lawmakers are addressing these crimes with an extended approach.
Youth Health Service Inc., based in Elkins, recently received federal funding to expand its trauma services and treatment. Known as the FOCUS project, the program allows Youth Health Service to partner with counselors at Davis & Elkins College, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Alderson-Broaddus College and Women's Aid in Crisis to help young people who have or are experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
On the state level, lawmakers are considering two versions of a bill that would require adults to report any suspected sexual abuse to police. While these measures were introduced in light of the Penn State University scandal, our West Virginia leaders are commended for considering the unfortunate scenario of "what if this had happened here."
According to counselors at Youth Health Service, "it is estimated that 1 in 3 young people will experience abuse in a dating or marital relationship and that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual assault or abuse by their 18th birthday." Sadly, neither the FOCUS project nor the pending state legislation will put an end to these horrific crimes.
What can be accomplished is enhancing programs to bring healing to the victims, and creating a legal obligation for adults to report even the suspicion that these terrible actions are taking place.