I am the newly hired Executive Director at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County. I have spent the last twenty three years working to protect children from abuse. One can imagine the stories that I have heard in what I refer to as “the small little room”. The small little room is a special room set up with video and audio recording capabilities and I spent a large part of the last few years in one of these rooms talking with children about events that have happened in their lives. Most of these events are abusive in nature.
I have had many people over the years ask me how I could do such a depressing job. How could I sit in that room with a child telling me about terrible things that have happened to them and still be able to sleep at night?
I usually tell them it is the things that I don’t hear that keep me up at night. It is the silence that surrounds most abused children that I find deafening.
I know through research that approximately thirty percent of children who are abused never tell their story. This statistic has haunted me throughout my career. Why will they not tell? What can we do that will help them to tell? I have asked some children, “What made you not tell?” Their answer? “No one ever asked!”
Then the next question is, “Why not?” Adults tell me all the time, “I don’t know what to ask.” They tell me, “I don’t want to make my child paranoid or afraid.”
This is the part that I find puzzling. Children look to adults to protect them and to let them know what is right and what is wrong. What message are we giving them when we are still sending messages through our actions or lack of actions that it is not okay to talk about sexual abuse? Sexual abuse happens in secrecy. Sexual abuse is allowed to continue to happen through silence. I just don’t understand why we as adults want to give all the power to perpetrators and none of it to our children. After twenty three years of experience and training in the field of child abuse I still have no answers.
My wish for all children is that they have adults in their lives that will take the time to learn what the signs of abuse are and learn what to do when they see them.
My wish for all children is that they have adults in their lives who will take the initiative to learn what questions to ask their children so they can take steps to protect them.
We ask ourselves what has happened that the world have become so unsafe for our children. The answer is that we as adults have not done enough to empower children. We have not done enough to keep our children safe.
My question to you is what will you do today to reduce the risk of sexual abuse of a child in your life?
Sign up to take a class through the Children’s Advocacy Center to learn about child abuse prevention. We have a new class every month. Our next one is Monday, Jan. 27th, 4-7 pm at the CAC. To register, contact Shandi at firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 541-734-5437.