To the Editor:
The news media provides us with daily reminders that child sexual abuse is real, and it happens close to home. It is difficult to accept that sexual abuse is a problem in our community, but if we want it to stop, we have to acknowledge it, and we have to talk about it.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Family and Children's Aid and The Women's Center of Greater Danbury will be joining anti-sexual violence organizations throughout the state and country in bringing attention to the issue of child sexual abuse. Ending child sexual abuse is possible, but it will require all adults to educate themselves, have early and ongoing conversations with children, and model healthy behaviors.
Child sexual abuse thrives in silence. When healthy, caring adults do not educate children about body parts, appropriate touch, and healthy sexuality, that education is left to abusers. By starting conversations about age-appropriate behaviors, healthy boundaries, and respectful relationships, adults open lines of communication and let children know that it is safe to have conversations about their bodies and that it is okay to talk about situations that feel uncomfortable. Offenders will often tell a child that the child will be in trouble if he or she says anything about the “secret” abuse that is happening. Children need to know that this is a lie and that it is always okay to confide in an adult when they feel upset or when someone is hurting them.
Adults can help prevent child sexual abuse by showing respect to children, modeling healthy behaviors and boundaries, and confronting adults when they act in ways that are inappropriate. Too often, we respond with silence and discomfort when we witness attitudes and behaviors that are not acceptable or that support abuse. We need to show children that it is okay to speak up when you feel uncomfortable. This will help kids feel better about their own boundaries and train the next generation to hold each other accountable and engage in good bystander behaviors.
During the month of April, commit to learning about child sexual abuse and starting conversations with your family and friends. Anyone can contact their local Children's Advocacy Center or Sexual Assault Crisis Service for help and information. If we want to end child sexual abuse, we have to talk about it. Join the conversation.
Nicole Sabel, MA, LPC
Program Manager of Counseling & Advocacy Services
Women's Center of Greater Danbury
2 West Street, Danbury April 15, 2013