Once again, a story about a child being sexually abused by someone they know and trust makes the news. Several people knew about the abuse- no one called the police.
This time the alleged abuser is a well-known college coach, and founder of a charity for high-risk kids. The man charged with the abuse had access to vulnerable children needing a helping hand and guidance. He was a leader in the community, and on the football field. The grand jury report details 40 charges involving at least eight alleged victims and spanning 15 years, beginning in 1994.
How did this go on for so long? The answer is as simple as it is infuriating, because no one stood up for the children.
People knew this was going on. Another coach witnessed the sexual abuse and walked away. He told another coach. That coach told the two high-ranking officials at the college. Lots of people were told, no one reported the abuse to the police.
That’s how child abuse is able to continue. Whether it’s a high profile case such as this one, or your neighbor, family member or friend – people know but no one reports it to the police, or social services.
If you know about child abuse, if you suspect child abuse, you should report it. You cannot rely on a child to report his or her own sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Many children are not capable of understanding what is happening to them, and they are fearful of the consequences of saying anything.
So it’s up to you to help them. Helpguide.org is an excellent resource if you suspect or know that child abuse is happening. Some of the myths behind reporting child abuse are listed.
▪ I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
▪ What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home – unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
▪ They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
▪ It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
It doesn’t matter if a child is sexually, physically or emotionally abused, the results are the same; a child’s innocence, safety, health, peace of mind and future are damaged forever.
In the case making headlines today, the college, it’s leaders and the coaches will all pay a price. The abuser will most likely serve time if found guilty. As unpleasant as that may be for them, they are getting off easy. The real victims in this situation are the children. They will most likely spend the rest of their lives trying to understand and comes to terms with how they were sexually abused (raped), and how those who could have reached out and helped – looked the other way.
If you know about or even suspect child abuse is occurring, report it.