Everett, WA - Once again, child sexual-abuse allegations have people everywhere shaking their heads in disbelief. Anger and frustration fill the airwaves, news columns, and blogs with questions like "How did this happen?" and "How did it go unreported for so long?"”Why didn’t someone do something?” "Stranger danger" has often been overemphasized by those who would keep children safe from predators. While studies have shown that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by the age of 18, the real truth is that 90 percent of victims know the offenders well. They are relatives, friends, neighbors, and, as alleged in the Penn State case, evencoaches.
Understanding what keeps child victims of sexual abuse silent is easy. They fear that revealing the abuse will bring harm to them or those they love, loss of affection, and punishment. Child sexual abuse is a crime that thrives in a climate of silence, secrecy, and shame. Fear and shame are what offenders count on as they groom their victims. What is not so easily explained is the silence of adult witnesses to such crimes. But if the problem is a lack of information about how to report such abuse and what will happen as a result, we must make sure that information is more widely known and understood.
When a report of child sexual abuse is made to the police or Child Protective Services in Snohomish County, there is a partnership and place to ensure the abuse ends, that the child has a safe place to talk about what happened, and that the child and his or her non-offending family get all the services they need to start healing. Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center, a nonprofit child advocacy center that responds to allegations of abuse, is that place, and that partnership.
Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center Is a group of professionals responding to concerns of child abuse. We are dedicated to helping kids, seeking justice and promoting healthy families.” Each year we serve close to 1,000 sexually or physically abused children, birth to 18 years of age, in Snohomish County.
Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center unites the main public and private agencies who serve child abuse victims in Snohomish County. The partner agencies include Snohomish County Sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit, Providence Invention Center for Assault and Abuse, Snohomish County Prosecuting Office’s Special Assault Unit, Compass Health’s Child Advocacy Program, and Child Protective Services. All agencies work collaboratively under one roof to provide separate but coordinated services that abused children need and deserve.
It is easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed in the face of the headlines. It is harder to turn our anger and frustration into positive action for victimized children. Here is one thing we can all agree to do. Raise your right hand and repeat after me: "If I see, hear, suspect, or in any way become aware that a child is being abused, I will not keep silent. I will have the courage to help that child break free of the silence, secrecy, and shame that should never define a child's life."”I will do something by telling who needs to be told”.”I will act”.
If a child you know discloses abuse directly to you, thank them for sharing the abuse situation with you. Tell them you will take it seriously and help them. Listen to the child and write down everything they say. Note date and time. Do this as they are talking. Do not ask leading questions, such as “Did Tom touch or hurt you?” Only ask, “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” Keep writing as long as they keep talking. If you ask questions, make them open ended, like: “Where did this happen? How many times? Who did this? What did they do? What did they say?”
The next step is to take action. Immediately report child abuse by contacting:
Calling 911 and making a report to law enforcement.
Calling 1-800-562-5624 and making a CPS report
Calling the Providence Sexual Assault/Abuse Crisis Line for advice. You can call 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. Dial 425-252-4800, for an advocate to assist you.
Most of all, stay calm and do not panic, and do not confront the alleged offender. Try to maintain normal routines in the child’s life. Once you speak with a professional, you will understand the next steps.
Dawson Place is an accredited Child Advocacy Center serving all children and families in Snohomish County. Once you report any child abuse, ask for a referral to our services. Located at one address and under one roof, we provide victim advocacy, forensic medical exams, forensic child interviews, mental health assessments and ongoing therapy, child protective services, law enforcement case investigations, and prosecution services, including legal advocacy.
Please remember your promise … “If I see, hear, suspect, or in any way become aware that a child is being abused, I will not keep silent. I will have the courage to help that child break free of the silence, secrecy, and shame that should never define a child's life."”I will do something by telling who needs to be told”.”I will act”.
We all have a vivid recent example of what happens when people do not act………
For more information or to help a child who has been abused call 425-388-7497 or visit www.dawsonplace.org.