This is National Volunteer Week (April 10-16) in the United States. Among American adults, 26 percent volunteer, according to a new report from the Corporation for National and Community Service. This is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the U.S. So, my blog post this week is dedicated to those two occasions.
I serve a number of nonprofit organizations as a volunteer. I almost always receive back more than I give. Volunteering allows me to make a difference, allows me to engage with the organizations I donate to, allows me to better understand the organizations I support. For the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance (PCA), I sit on the board of directors. PCA brings justice and healing to the victims of child sexual abuse.
Did you know that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control? Did you know that the vast majority of these child victims will be sexually abused by someone they know?
I did not know any of this before serving as juror for a child sex abuse case a number of years ago. Like most people, I thought that the sexual abuse of children was rare. Based mostly on occasional news coverage, I assumed that the perpetrators were predator-strangers or religious leaders. However, during the course of the trial I learned a great deal. I learned that one in five children are sexually abused before reaching adulthood. I learned that those closest to children are more likely to be the abusers since they are the ones with access; in the court case I heard, we eventually found step-granddad guilty. Following the trial, I did a fair amount of research on the subject and eventually found my way to PCA.
Here are some of the haunting words that PCA staff have heard from just three of the children they have served:
“He said that if I told anyone he’d kill my sister. So if I told and she died it would be all my fault.”
“I love my dad, and I don’t want him to go to jail. I just want him to stop doing that to me.”
“I just want to be like a normal kid.”