The recent situation at Penn State reinforces what we already know. Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. Less than 10 percent of these children will ever tell anyone what happened to them.
In the Penn State case, reports indicate that someone witnessed the abuse, yet apparently never told the police who could have investigated and taken action to prevent this from happening to other children. About 90 percent of sexual abuse cases involve someone the child knows. And usually, an adult knows that something is going on but does nothing about it.
Children are not responsible for their own protection. Adults are responsible for protecting children. You don’t have to be able to prove the abuse is happening. If you suspect, you must report. It’s as simple as that. You can report as a concerned citizen, as an adult who wants to be sure children are safe.
The Penn State situation highlights the extraordinary power that people have to hide this issue. When the issue is hidden, it limits the ability of a child to come forward and tell about the abuse when adults in their lives won’t take responsibility to protect them.
Keep your eyes open and ears tuned in to all of the adults spending time with kids in your community, and trust your instincts if something does not seem right. If you see a relationship between an adult and child taking a suspicious turn, open the lines of communication with the child and watch the relationship closely.
Be vigilant. Don’t sweep concerning behavior under the rug. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, make a report to your local child protective services organization. We are all interested in raising healthy children. Step up and do your part to keep them safe.
The Child Abuse Prevention Fund is a fundraising initiative of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Since 1988, the organization has distributed more than $10 million to support community-based child abuse prevention initiatives throughout Wisconsin.
Read more blog posts by Jennifer Hammel.