A growing epidemic

a2a-logoDid you know there is currently a condition that affects one in four girls and one in six boys before their 18th birthday?  And, that recently the Centers for Disease Control has acknowledged this condition as a national health epidemic?

This “condition” is the reality of child sexual abuse in Wisconsin.  Here are some additional statistics you might not be aware of:

  • In Wisconsin, 47 percent of sex offenders were related to the victim, 49 percent were acquaintances and 4 percent were strangers.
  • The median age for reported sexual abuse is 9 years old.
  • Nearly 40 percent of victims are abused by older and larger children.
  • Abuse typically occurs within a long-term, on-going relationship between the offender and victim, escalates over time and lasts an average of four years.

Offenders often develop a relationship with a targeted victim for months before the abuse. As adults, we need to reduce the risks to protect children.  Some ways we can do that are to:

  • Understand that abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families.
  • Think carefully about the safety of any one-adult/one-child situations.  Choose group situations when possible.
  • Ensure that youth-serving organizations have policies in place for dealing with suspicious situations and reports of abuse.
  • Insist that youth-serving organizations train their staff and volunteers to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
  • Think carefully about the safety of situations in which older youth have access to younger children.  Make sure that multiple adults are present who can supervise.

Awareness to Action, a joint effort between the Child Abuse Prevention Fund, the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund and Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, is a new initiative working to prevent child sexual abuse by helping adults and communities take action to protect children. The project includes funding for two pilot communities to develop very specific programming targeted to preventing sexual abuse, training facilitators from throughout the state in the “Stewards of Children” sexual abuse prevention program through Darkness to Light. A Web site will soon be launched that will include information for professionals and parents in how to prevent child sexual abuse. Also, a statewide task force is being coordinated to address policies regarding child sexual abuse in the state.

Awareness to Action takes the approach that educating and training adults and communities will prevent children from being sexually harmed. We welcome your involvement. Please feel free to call  (920) 996-2206 or e-mail me at Mary.Kleman@cssw.org to learn more about this exciting initiative.

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