Children across the globe are suffering from a troubling, and growing, epidemic—child abuse. This Examiner can speak first-hand to the horrors that are taking place across our nation and our world. I am a survivor of 11 years of incestual molestation at the hand of a distant family member.
It is important for people to understand that abuse can present itself in numerous ways—no two cases are identical. A child could be emotionally, physically, sexually abused, or some combination of the three. Here in Waco, Texas we have great organizations like Arrow Child and Family Ministries, The Advocacy Center at 2323 Columbus Avenue, and the Crimes against Children department of the Waco PD to report to and help us deal with our local cases.
According to www.childhelp.org:
- A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
- Almost five children die every day as a result of child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of 4.
- It is estimated that between 60-85% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
- 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members.
- Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
- 31% percent of women in prison in the United States were abused as children.
- Over 60% of people in drug rehabilitation centers report being abused or neglected as a child.
- About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
- About 80% of 21 year old that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
- The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2007 is $104 billion.
There are great individuals trying to change this for children world-wide. One such individual, Sierra Sullivan, event coordinator for Dreamcatchers for Abused Children, is making great strides in childhood abuse advocacy. Sierra is from Michigan and works with the National Suicide Prevention hotline. Sierra agreed to share some of her experiences and insights with and about child abuse.
Q. What is your experience with child abuse?
A. I am the event coordinator for Dreamcatchers for Abused Children. Our mission is to spread awareness on all forms of child abuse, as well as helping victims locate the resources needed for a full recovery. I am also a board member of Safe Horizons, which provides shelter and counseling services to victims of abuse and homelessness.
Q. In your opinion what are the signs to look for in a child you suspect to be abused?
A. With all of the various forms of child abuse there are a variety of signs to look for. In physical abuse there can be visual signs- bruises, burns, and unusual injuries. There are also a variety of behavioral signs that may be present as well, such as: running away, fear of parents, anxiety/fear about going home, or being withdrawn. In victims of sexual abuse the child may have sexual knowledge inappropriate for their age, or be acting out in a sexual manner. In all forms of abuse the child’s sleep patterns can be greatly affected. I could go on forever with various signs to look for, but not every child is going to react to abuse the same way. Whereas some children may act withdrawn and shy, others have the instant to act out and put a guard up, so that no one can get close enough to hurt them again. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart, when you feel something is not right.
Q. In your opinion, what should a responsible adult do if they suspect a child is being abused?
A. If you suspect a child is being abused, it MUST be reported. State law requires that any person who believes a child under the age of 18 is a victim of abuse to report the suspicion of abuse immediately to the Department of Human Services. To report suspected abuse call: your local law enforcement agency, local child protective services, and any of the 24 hour child help hotlines. Child abuse: Child Help (800)4-A-Child. Sexual abuse: Stop It Now! (888)PREVENT. Family Violence: National Domestic Violence Hotline (800)799-SAFE. Remember, these abusers count on your silence.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”- Edmund Burke
Q. What actions have you personally taken to make others aware of and help prevent child abuse?
4. I try to spread awareness through posting local and national headlines relating to abuse, and by speaking to students, and doing activities through the schools. My hope is that by speaking of it more, we will make this subject less taboo, and that victims will feel more comfortable coming forward and getting the help that they need.
Q. What advice do you have for a parent whose child has been victimized?
A. Even though you might not know what to say right now, your child needs your support now more than ever. Make sure that they know it was NOT their fault, and that it was WRONG. If you suspect your child is being abused by someone at home, get the child to safety (there are emergency shelters nationwide), and get to the bottom of it. Also counseling and support groups can benefit abused children greatly, and most of these services can be found free of charge to victims through local organizations.
Q. What resources do you recommend for an abused child?
A. I would highly recommend counseling and support groups. Children may need these services to smoothly enter back into society after a traumatic event. If your child is suffering from nightmares try playing relaxing and calming music at bedtime. For more information on helping victims of abuse you can go to the official Dreamcatchers website: Dreamcatchersforabusedchildren.com.
The children of the world need responsible, educated and motivated individuals like Sierra Sullivan, Velvet Martin, Elizabeth Brawley, Julie Federico, Anita Wladichuk and the countless others like them. Women such as these are banding together across the world with great determination and strength to help and speak up for all the hurting and victimized children. What steps will you take to help protect exploited children?