My wife and I attended a wedding recently in Highlands, N.C. Sitting in the Old Edwards Inn, I was reading the weekly paper and the headline was: School bus driver arrested for sex crimes.
The piece continued: A Macon County substitute bus driver … part of an online undercover investigation based in Columbus, Ga. …
If I yelled “fire!” in a theater, I would potentially be arrested and everyone there would have paid attention. Yet, as much as I talk, and yell and write about child sexual abuse being an epidemic, very few appear interested.
I know there is a fear factor; a disgust factor; a denial factor; and maybe many of you are simply weary of the continuous accounts of child abuse in the news.
What floored me was the rest of the story in that Highlands newspaper. The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force had arrested 21 people ages 22 to 55 years of age, and charged each with sexual exploitation of a child. (The part-time custodian and elementary school bus driver in North Carolina also worked in Columbus, Ga.)
I wondered, if I encounter child abuse every day and see news accounts everywhere I go, how do others not?
I find it absurd to think that others just don’t care. Also interesting about this article were the references to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau report finding that 10 percent of child maltreatment victims had been sexually assaulted.
Further, it cited a study from the Crimes Against Children Research Center that one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
Those statistics should be startling to everyone. For those who live in and around Augusta, the numbers here are startling as well.
Child Enrichment, the Child Advocacy Center and CASA Program for abused children served 903 children just last year. Of those, 471 were child sexual abuse victims. Of those, 64 percent were 9 years old and younger.
Of those, 20 percent were 5 years old or younger.
When adult men are sexually abusing children, very young children, it should cause an outcry and become an urgent call to action. I always hope that such significant numbers will grab people and motivate them to get involved.
Child abuse will not be stopped by government programs. Child abuse and all forms of child maltreatment can only be countered by citizens who become motivated to prevent abuse.
Everyone can do something to help. Donate money or material goods to programs that help child victims recover. You can go through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteer training and be assigned by a Juvenile Court judge to a child or sibling group who is in foster care. You will promise to stay involved with them until they have a safe and permanent home.
You can consider adoption. There are over 14,000 children in Georgia’s foster care system. More than half are awaiting and hoping for an adoptive family to raise them.
You can simply learn more about child maltreatment and find a way that works for you to help.
Until we work to help all children to be safe and successful, we cannot continue to claim that children are our future. Only a portion of them are now.
The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc.