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What we can do about sexual abuse

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Editorial: March 12, 2013

ISSUE: Sexual Abuse Awareness Month
OUR VIEW: Let's take a proactive role

The first step in improvement is awareness and acknowledgment of a problem.

In the case of sexual assault, many among us are guilty of overlooking or even denying its existence in our community. That needs to change.

Sexual assault is a vicious, ugly violation the community actively works to stamp out, particularly where vulnerable children are involved.

An observance designating March as Sexual Assault Awareness Month focuses attention on healthy sexuality and child sexual assault prevention.

While uncomfortable at times, communication is a key tool in bringing about change. National programming encourages families to start talking about healthy childhood development and means to prevent child sexual abuse.

Here are some resources:

  • The National Sexual Violence Research Center provides tools and information online to help adults understand healthy childhood sexual development and how to approach our responsibility to protect children.  Available at www.nsvrc.org, the material promotes positive characteristics, skills and behaviors and offers tools parents and others need to identify risk factors and confront negative messages.
  • An effort known as Stop It Now offers advice and training for parents and caregivers. Much of its focus is on prevention such as tips for planning a safe summer, which emphasizes addressing issues “before there’s a child victim to heal or an offender to punish.” Details are available at www.stopitnow.org.
  • Among ideas offered by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network at www.rainn.org is relaying emergency information for adults. It encourages everyone to tell a friend about the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE, which puts callers in touch with knowledgeable counselors.
  • Locally, the Advocacy and Support Center plans a March 20 survivorship celebration. This is in addition to its ongoing workshops and support group meetings for adult survivors of sexual violence. The center can be reached at 234-9236 or 877-672-2124 and provides information at www.advocacysupportcenter. com.
  • SpringHaven offers the region's only emergency shelter providing a safe place for domestic violence victims, who often also are victims of sexual assault. The Elizabethtown shelter offers care and counseling for victims and their dependent children. SpringHaven provides a 24-hour crisis line at 800-767-5838 but reminders at www. springhaveninc.org stress the best call in life-threatening crisis situations is 911.

Which returns this conversation to its beginning. Sexual abuse in its many forms is a serious matter that deserves serious community focus. Don’t wait to help a neighbor or begin an appropriate conversation with a child.

Let’s be proactive and let’s do it now.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.