Child sexual abuse is one of the last remaining taboos. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 grown women and 1 in 6 grown men were victims of child sexual abuse. However, even in light of such staggering rates, we have communities throughout the country that would rather sweep the issue under the rug than address the true costs of this abuse.
Whether you are talking about the Catholic Church, which is actively appealing a law that would extend the statute of limitations for victims reporting these crimes; Penn State officials, who were more interested in protecting the football program than the countless boys who were abused by its celebrity coach, Jerry Sandusky; or the members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn who are actively dissuading victims and families from reporting abuse to the authorities, communities across the nation are deciding to protect their reputation at the expense of their children.
My own experience in dealing with domestic violence in the Asian-American community - a community that prides itself on fostering the "model family," much like Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York - revealed that people were afraid to talk about violence and abuse because they feared tarnishing the community’s image. Only when the community addressed this violence openly and honestly could progress and change be achieved. We must display the same courage when it comes to child sexual abuse.
The statistics speak for themselves. We know that child sexual abuse is linked to so many social ills for survivors down the road, including re-victimization as adults, higher rates of domestic and sexual violence and increased rates of substance abuse and poverty. This is an issue that cannot and must not be ignored.
That is why the Ms. Foundation for Women is funding groups working across the country to bring this issue out of the shadows and into the light of day. Hiding it under the rug only serves to weaken our communities – and further endanger our children – but, if we have the courage and resolve to address it head-on, we can change the lives of thousands of children, strengthen our families and transform our communities.
Vice President, Grants and Capacity Building, Ms. Foundation for Women
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