by Mary Whittier
“The numbers are staggering: Every six minutes in our country a child is sexually abused. Two hundred and forty children. Every day. Nearly five children die each day as a result of abuse or neglect. If child abuse were a disease, we'd have telethons, rallies and other public events to raise money for a cure. Just as we didn't talk openly about cancer in the 1960s and 1970s, we must get past our discomfort talking about child sexual abuse, and give it the attention it deserves.
Child sexual abuse is an epidemic, one that most people would like to think happens in some other neighborhood, to some other family, to some other child. While it may seem easier to live in denial, child abuse happens everywhere. Child sexual abuse knows no barriers - not race, income or religion. It happens in your neighborhood. It's happened to someone you know. I've seen it first-hand, thousands of times.
At Bivona Child Advocacy Center, we bring together all the professionals responsible for helping abused children. Through a collaboration of 21 social and legal agencies, children can come to Bivona to receive a forensic interview, undergo a medical evaluation, meet with a victim advocate and talk to a therapist. All of this is done in a warm, welcoming environment created with the child's best interest in mind. Early intervention is critical so children can get the support they need to go on to live happy, healthy, productive lives.
Since opening on Aug. 1, 2004, we have impacted the lives of more than 6,500 children. Sadly, we know there are many more children we're not helping because experts believe as few as 1 in 10 children will ever tell they are being abused. Why? Primarily because 90 percent of the time the abuser is someone a child knows, loves and trusts - parents, relatives, neighbors, family friends, coaches and religious leaders.
Our vision is to provide every child that has been sexually abused the services of a child advocacy center. Beginning this month - April is Child Abuse Prevention Month - please help us end the secrecy and shame of child sexual abuse. We can no longer sweep it under the rug. There are many things you can do to help. Get the facts. Talk openly about abuse. Act on your suspicions and report abuse. Take our pledge against child abuse at www.SexAbuseStandUP.com. There are many ways to get involved. You can be a voice for thousands of children who don't have the courage to speak up."