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.”
It’s heartbreaking. We know that 20 percent of children will be sexually abused nationwide. This is a crime that knows no geographic, economic, or racial boundaries. We know that those who are sexually abused are more likely to become abusers themselves, take illegal drugs, enter prostitution, perform poorly in school, turn to a life of crime, and suffer from health problems. Child sexual abuse is a crime that can scar.
Fortunately, something can be done. PCA and its peer Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) around the nation work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies and social service providers, to provide victims a variety of vital services. You can learn more by visiting the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance website or take a moment to learn more about your own local CAC by visiting the National Children’s Alliance website to find your local Regional Child Advocacy Center.
As adults, we have a moral obligation to protect the children in our homes and our communities. Since this is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I encourage you to take two easy steps that can help protect children from the nightmare of sexual abuse:
First, I encourage you to download and read the list of 10 prevention tips prepared by the staff of PCA. This article first appeared in Parents Express Magazine in June 2009. The tips are simple steps you can take to protect your loved ones. I hope you will read the article and share it with others. Taking just a few moments of your time now will help ensure that the innocence of childhood is preserved for the children in your life.
Second, find your local Child Advocacy Center and make a financial contribution. If you’re in the Philadelphia-area, I encourage you to join me at PCA’s Bear Affair fundraising event on April 28. Local CACs offer a number of programs to help victims and also work to help prevent the sexual abuse of children. Please support your local CAC.
Here’s what one child who was helped by PCA told the staff:
“Thank you for talking to me. I finally got it out of my head.”
I hope you make a positive difference in a child’s life this month. By the way, my wife and I do not have any children. However, we strongly feel that every adult, whether with or without children, has a duty to protect them.
That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say? What are you doing this month to protect children? Where are you volunteering and why?