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Your Opinion: Help prevent sexual abuse of children

Your Opinion: Help prevent sexual abuse of children

February 6th, 2013 by Debby Howland, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

The Missouri Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children submitted their report earlier this month to the governor and Legislature. The News Tribune is to be commended for their series of editorials immediately following the release of the Task Force's report.

Frequently, media attention is lacking when state task forces and committees publish reports of their findings, so it was reassuring to see attention focused on this very critical topic of child sexual abuse.

It is horrifying to consider the statistics regarding sexual abuse: 24 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys experience sexual abuse during their childhood and the Center of Sex Offender Management estimates only one third of sexual abuse offenses are reported to law enforcement. If these numbers don't motivate adults to do more about this critical problem, then I'm not sure what will.

As I work with a community coalition of advocates, elected officials and state agency staff, it is clear to me that there are many people in Missouri who want to help prevent abuse, but are not always sure where to start.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and it is an important time to focus on the ways that everyone can help keep children safe in their families, neighborhoods, schools, and churches. April can be a time that we all commit to be more alert in our own world of children, not just in April, but every day of the year.

We may not have young children in our own home, but we see many children that we should be paying attention to as we go about our daily lives. If you have suspicions about possible abuse, please call the Missouri Hotline and discuss your concerns: 1-800-392-3738.

As I reviewed the task force's report and the editorials in the News Tribune, I realize how much more vigilant we all need to be regarding the signs of sexual abuse and the steps to take if we suspect abuse.

Recommendation 13 in the task force report suggests that Missouri "create and fund a child sexual abuse public awareness campaign" in an effort to educate and inform citizens. The report also states: "Missouri must have the courage to openly discuss and address child sexual abuse or we will be as guilty as the adults who chose to protect their institutions at the expense of children."

So, if not now, when? If not us, who?