The word "courage" is often associated with the fight against child abuse. Front-line victim advocates have long recognized the need for courage in order to protect victims. Behind-the-scene advocates need courage to fight for funding and attention to the cause. But no courage is more difficult to muster than that shown by a child who finds the strength to speak out against an abuser. As adults, however, we cannot possibly expect children to find this courage if we do not ourselves have the courage to openly discuss this terrible crime.
Child abuse statistics are staggering. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the nation each year. With some reports including multiple children, that puts the total at over 6 million children. As a nation we lose five children every day as a result of abuse, with the majority of those children being under age 4.
Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. The long-term effects of abuse are severe. Abused children are 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy and are nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. Abuse victims often become abusers later in life, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
But there is hope. Child abuse is preventable. Each year, thousands of local families get help through a myriad of services. The Children’s Bureau/Exchange Club Family Resource Center, Hopewell Center, Alternatives, and Dove Harbor are just a few of the organizations who work relentlessly to get tools into the hands of families who are at risk. They provide the education and support that families need to help them navigate through tough times, handle stress, and so much more.