Help abused children out of darkness

I understand, and I don't like it. Parents must be scared to death that someone may be hurting or sexually abusing their children -- and all of us should be. Yet, the individual and collective response to this epidemic is not logical or rational.

It is unimaginable that children are being sexually abused. I get that it is difficult to accept. After working for 37 years with children, even I don't want to believe that our society is so depraved as to allow the sexual abuse of our children. We are passively allowing the sexual abuse of our children. There is no other explanation.

There are 37 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States. That represents an epidemic -- a quiet, hidden, secret, dark and horrific epidemic of children being tortured. Almost 17,000 abused boys and girls from our area have been served by Child Enrichment since 1978. More than half of all children served now are treated for child sexual abuse.

Attempting to get people's attention to this has turned me into a Chicken Little-like character, yelling as loudly as I can -- not falsely "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" but truthfully "Our children are not safe! Our children are not safe!"

Ninety-five percent of the sexually abused children served by Child Enrichment last year were abused by someone trusted by their family. Often, it was someone they loved, and whom everyone trusted. Often it was a father, uncle, grandfather, stepfather, brother or stepbrother.

How do I reach the huge percentage of people who do not believe this risk, or who cannot even think about it? How do we, as a society, move toward actually preventing child sexual abuse?

One way is for each adult, especially parents and people who work with children, to attend Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children. Darkness to Light is a revolutionary child sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. This program will motivate you to courageous action in the protection of children.

Child Enrichment is offering free training in Darkness to Light, and you are invited: 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, June 9, at the Augusta Library, 823 Telfair St. RSVP by calling (706) 737-4631. The worst thing any of us can do is to deny the problem and do nothing.

(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., the Child Advocacy Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Abused Children.)

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