Recent allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of eight preteen boys over more than 15 years and the university’s athletic department condoning the abuse by omission have brought public attention to the epidemic of child sexual abuse.
With every new disclosure that comes out, we hear about failure to report, failure to act, failure to protect.
While shocking, this is a scenario that is repeated entirely too often.
Just like other institutional sex abuse scandals, such as Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals, protection of pedophilic priests, the daily developments at Penn State reveal a systemic and systematic failure to do what is morally right and to protect vulnerable children from inappropriate and allegedly abusive behavior.
For the past 35 years, Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, located in downtown Waco, has made a difference in the lives of thousands of victims of sexual assault and other violent crime through advocacy, collaboration, prevention and treatment through our four core programs: Victims Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Children’s Advocacy Center and Prevention and Education.
Already this year, Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children has helped almost 600 victims of sexual assault. The statistics are staggering and show us that one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault by the time they turn 18.
As parents, we talk to our kids about the risks involved with strangers, but only 4 percent of abuse is perpetrated by strangers. The remainder are known and trusted by the child. Most of the perpetrators are family members or acquaintances of the family, including coaches, teachers, mentors and leaders of youth organizations.
Here at Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, we see the devastating impact of abuse on children. It affects every aspect of their lives – their ability to form healthy relationships, their school work and their behavior. Left unchecked and untreated, it can have tragic lifelong implications, including a continued cycle of abuse.
As citizens, we have a moral and legal responsibility to report child abuse, and any suspected or witnessed abuse must be reported. If a child’s life is in imminent danger, call 911.
You can make an anonymous report with law enforcement, CPS or Texas Abuse Hotline at 800-252-5400 or www.txabusehotline.org.
Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Safety for a child is of the utmost importance – keep reporting until something is done and protect the child from further harm. As a community, let’s work towards fostering a culture of accountability to help protect our kids.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Executive Director, Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children