Child sexual abuse is, we know, a staggeringly silent epidemic. Conservative estimates suggest one in three girls and one in six boys in the US experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. Yet less than 10 percent of all cases are reported to legal authorities and very few survivors ever share their stories publicly. For a variety of complex reasons -- including that the issue remains very taboo, myths about who is most likely to perpetrate abound, and policymakers have privileged a punitive criminal justice approach over community-based prevention -- child sexual abuse remains incredibly difficult to combat.
The Ms. Foundation for Women is committed to changing this reality. We believe one of the most effective ways to put an end to child sexual abuse is to elevate the voices of survivors -- like those of Senator Brown and so many others -- who are uniquely positioned to understand the root causes of abuse and can help guide practitioners and policymakers to adopt a more holistic, community-based approach to prevention. We know that survivor-activists play a critical role in building a new movement to end child sexual abuse. Survivors' stories encourage a much more open and honest dialogue about child sexual abuse -- both at kitchen tables and at policymaking tables. And their voices are often the most effective antidote to myths and misunderstandings that perpetuate abuse and lead to well-intentioned, but frequently insufficient or misguided, policies and programs.
The more our society creates safe spaces for open and honest dialogue about child sexual abuse, the better able we'll be to shift public understanding about abuse and build the power of individuals, families and communities to advance more comprehensive, effective and just approaches to prevention. That is why it is so important that survivors like Senator Scott Brown -- and our wonderful grantees and their constituencies -- encourage others to step out of the shadows and demand that the conversation continue.
Join the movement and hear the voices of other survivors by attending a special NYC performance of the play Secret Survivors with the Ms. Foundation for Women.