By Scott Washburn
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and youth-serving organizations across the country have been working this month to raise awareness and understanding about a topic that needs more attention in more communities: child sexual abuse.
Statistics reveal that about 1 in 10 children in the United States will be sexually abused before her or his 18th birthday. Sadly, in more than 90 percent of reported cases, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts.
The YMCA of Snohomish County, together with other agencies that serve youth in Snohomish County, will sponsor Five Days of Action for Child Abuse Prevention this week, April 24 to 28. During this week we will share information and resources with the community about how to recognize, prevent and report child sexual abuse.
While we are placing a special emphasis on this topic during the month of April, the protection of youth from abuse is our top priority every single day of the year.
That’s because keeping kids safe from abuse is essential to their healthy development. Studies show that children who experience adverse childhood experiences like sexual abuse are more likely to adopt risky behaviors such as smoking and drug use, develop chronic health conditions such as depression and heart disease, underperform academically and die early.
Also, abuse doesn’t discriminate. It happens to children of all ages, genders, races, faiths and socioeconomic classes. It is a broad-based, too-common a crime in our country today.
The good news is that child sexual abuse is preventable, and we are fully committed to doing our part to keep youth protected from abuse in our community, and we are asking you to join us.
Joining me in this effort are Pam Shields, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Snohomish County; Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of Boys &Girls Clubs of Snohomish County; Duane Rhodes, Scout executive for Boy Scouts of America; Dave Surface, executive director for Camp Fire Snohomish County’ Cassie Franklin, chief executive of Cocoon House; and Lori Vanderburg, esecutive director of Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center.
Please stop by one of our organizations during the Five Days of Action from April 24-28, or visit the Darkness to Light website, www.d2l.org, to learn more about how you can prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
As a community, we have an obligation to nurture our children and protect their only childhood. We must prevent child sexual abuse to live up to this obligation.
Scott Washburn is president and CEO of YMCA of Snohomish County.