Learn how to take action when you see child abuse

Haven’t we all had one of those days when we think to ourselves, “I want someone else’s life,” even just for the day.

Imagine living the life of the latest pop star, sports figure or political leader. Maybe you’re walking a different path and thinking you’d like to trade places with a friend who has a fantastic career and drives a new car. What about the mom at school who appears to have it all together with her family. Ah yes, it’s nice to think their life is better and easier than our own. But do you really know that?

We have all heard the expression, “You don’t know a person until you have walked a mile in that person’s shoes.” Although the shoes are shiny, the path may be crooked. Especially for children, that path may lead to pain and betrayal. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Sadly, in 90 percent of the cases reported, this abuse happens by someone the child knows and trusts.

It horrifies me to think of how many children I pass in a given day knowing that 1 in 10 are being sexually violated. I don’t understand how an adult mentally manipulates and physically harms a child. Children are being robbed of their innocence. Children are supposed to be the hope for a brighter future.

Sexually abused children are at significantly greater risk for emotional and mental health problems, substance abuse problems and suicide attempts. Child sexual abuse is happening regardless of their age, gender, race, religion or socio-economic class. As a society we are all faced with the long- term consequences of child sexual abuse.

If this is affecting 1 in 10 children, how many adults in our lives have already been down this path. One never knows where others have been or what they are dealing with. Research tells us that far too often child sexual abuse is a silent journey that is traveled alone carrying this burden well into adulthood. History does not have to repeat itself.

Fear and denial of child sexual abuse are barriers to keeping children safe. Fear and denial suppresses our instincts. Many people today are too afraid or too distracted to get “involved” and choose to turn away. But is this the society you want your children, your grandchildren or your siblings to grow up in?

We, as adults, have far more power than we realize. A simple (and brave) action on our part can have a life-changing outcome for a child whose voice has been silenced. Action on the part of an adult might include becoming more aware of others who are involved with our children, adults asking simple questions about the policies where our children frequent or redirecting and addressing behavior that is questionable.

In recognition of April as Child Abuse Prevention month, YMCAs across the nation are sponsoring Five Days of Action for Child Abuse Prevention. Information and resources are being provided on how to prevent, recognize and respond to situations that adults may encounter. The goal is to help empower adults to take action if they see something that is questionable or making them uncomfortable.

As responsible adults, we all have the opportunity to create a different path or make the journey easier for those around us. Regardless of the shoes we are walking in, we are all on the path together. Why not take a step to clear the way for a child. We all benefit.

The Y For a Better Us. For more information, please contact your local Y at YMCA-SnoCo.org.

Scott Washburn is president and chief executive of the YMCA of Snohomish County.

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