Child sex abuse an epidemic we must end

Dear Editor,

Unfortunately it takes stories like the Penn State sex abuse scandal for most of us to focus on the details of the epidemic that is child sexual abuse. It is a crime of secrecy. Children are often fearful of their abuser and convinced that if they tell what has happened they will somehow be to blame.

It takes an incredible amount of courage for a victim of child abuse or child sexual abuse to come forward.

This is because approximately 90 percent of those who abuse children are in places of authority, or they are people the victims know and love.

Every adult holds the moral, ethical and oftentimes legal obligation to report suspected child abuse. Every adult should learn the signs of abuse and report suspected abuse so that another child doesn’t have to live in fear and torment of child sexual abuse.

Alabama’s Mandatory Reporter law outlines those who have the legal obligation to report abuse as well as how to report abuse. However, anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect to Law Enforcement or to DHR.

Far too often in our society people are afraid to get involved in family matters.

However, the abuse and exploitation of our children should be the exception. Children are often unable to protect themselves in these situations. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect our children, to give them a voice. Children should have a list of adults they can talk to if someone makes them feel uncomfortable; they should know it’s OK to say no and to tell someone; they should know what to do if unsafe touching has occurred, or if they have been solicited online.

For those who have been abused, there is hope. In Alabama, Children’s Advocacy Centers are available to coordinate all aspects of child abuse investigations and provide mental and medical health services in a manner to correct these social injustices.

There are 28 member Children’s Advocacy Centers. In Shelby County we operate as Owens House. Advocacy Centers are the voice for children, for brave children ­— for heroes and survivors.

For more information on signs of abuse or to find a way to help, contact us at owenshousecac.org or find a center near you at alabamacacs.org.

Cindy C. Greer

Executive Director, Owens House