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Silence? Never golden in helping to prevent abuse | Guest Column
By Kim Bryan, DVSAS
In the month of December DVSAS and the local Sheriff’s office hosted community discussion forums on each island with the challenging topic of child sexual abuse.
The attendance at each meeting was small…
“I am not surprised your turnout was small, you have to understand that we just don’t talk about that kind of stuff here on our islands”… (On average only about 10 percent of sexual abuse victims ever report the crime)…
“Really, cut us some slack, we just don’t have that issue here, so why should we spend time talking about it?”… (1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they reach their 18th birthday)…
“Well OK, we might have some sexual abuse here but it is not as bad as in the big cities, where they have all those crimes by strangers”... (Over 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know and trust their abuser)…
What might be dangerous about this kind of thinking? Could having this sense of safety without all of the facts lull us into a place of complacency or inaction?
Could this be allowing our children to live with burning secrets that they don’t have the voice to share and ask for the help they so desperately need? Could we have adults living among us who have had to live with that burning secret for years because we like to believe the lie that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen here?
We all know that any change in a community takes time and starts small.
With this in mind the groups of interested community members that met on each island have determined to persevere and invite their fellow community members to join them and DVSAS in the fight to protect our children from sexual abuse.
Won’t you join us in making a difference in the lives of our children on these beautiful shores?
“What,” you might ask, “can I do to make a difference in such a huge and ugly problem?”
Whether you have children or not, you can take an active role in protecting the innocent among us. Ask the organizations in your area that work with children about their policies regarding child sexual abuse, adult and child contact, reporting procedures, etc.
Invite a DVSAS advocate to speak at your club, or civic organization, workplace, place of worship, schools, preschools and daycare centers.
Being a community that talks about these difficult issues will shatter the silence that allows it to continue. Let’s join together to make 2012 the year we make the safety of our children our number one community priority. Plan now to attend the next community forum meeting on your island (see schedule below).
Forums in February
Lopez: Feb. 6, 6 p.m., Lopez Island Library
Orcas: Feb. 7. 6 p.m., Orcas Island Library
San Juan: Feb. 9, 6 p.m., San Juan Island Library
— Kim Bryan is a community advocate/prevention coordinator with Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Services.