Letter to the Editor: Together, we can prevent child sexual abuse
Together, we can prevent child sexual abuse
By Vincent Marturano and Kim Moran
One in ten children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Of those, nine in ten will know their abuser, and three in ten will be abused by family members.
The frequency with which children suffer sexual abuse is enough to keep parents and caregivers across America awake at night. When we examine the circumstances and data surrounding most of those instances, it becomes clear that a lack of community education and awareness are major contributing factors to the prevalence of abuse.
It is up to us as adults to keep kids safe and recognize the warning signs, as 60% of child sexual abuse victims do not disclose their abuse. If communities across America mobilize information and communicate openly and effectively around this issue, we can begin to reverse these troubling trends.
Old Colony YMCA, along with YMCAs across the country, is highlighting Child Abuse Prevention Month with the Five Days of Action from April 22-26. The Five Days of Action is a joint effort that focuses on sharing tips on how adults can prevent child sexual abuse.
This year’s theme, developed by YMCA of the USA, is “Know. See. Respond.” When adults know how abuse happens, see the warning signs and respond quickly, they foster a culture of child abuse prevention.
Protecting children from sexual abuse must be the number one priority of every person who cares about the well-being of kids. Adults and organizations play a vital role in making our communities a safer place for children – and the sooner everyone embraces that responsibility, the sooner we can begin to make a real change.
These conversations may be difficult, but they are necessary. Utilize available resources, like the ones below, if you are unsure of how to approach the issue.
When speaking with young children, it is helpful to teach them about their bodies and what each part of their body is called. This will help them communicate any issues more clearly.
Talk to them about rules around what constitutes inappropriate touching and what it means to give consent.
Teach them what to do when someone breaks the rules. It’s OK to teach your child to say “no” to an adult if your child is feeling uncomfortable in any situation.
If you believe a child is being abused:
- You do not need to have proof that abuse is occurring to make a report, only reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion means that you have witnessed maltreatment or boundary violations, in either the child or adult, or both. Or, you have received a disclosure from a child about abuse, neglect, or boundary violations towards them.
- Take any disclosure seriously, but do not overreact if your child tells you about abuse. Stay calm, comfort your child, listen carefully, avoid threatening or criticizing the alleged offender, and make a report.
- Child sexual abuse reports should be made to the local police or your local Department of Children and Families office, including the following locations; Taunton/Attleboro’s is 508-821-7000.
Old Colony YMCA and the YMCA Guardians for Child Protection, with support from YMCA of the USA, Darkness to Light, the Redwoods Group Foundation and Praesidium, have made materials available to help adults learn more about preventing child sexual abuse. For more information about preventing child sexual abuse visit www.fivedaysofaction.org.
Vincent Marturano is president and CEO of Old Colony YMCA. Kim Moran is senior vice president of child development and protection, Old Colony YMCA.
This piece originally appeared in the Taunton Daily Gazette.