More than 2,000 children in Greater Rochester were evaluated for abuse at Bivona Child Advocacy Center in 2017, 75 percent being concerns of sexual abuse.
Causewave Community Partners and Bivona have worked to prevent child sexual abuse since 2014 through Be Brave for Kids, a communitywide initiative that raises awareness about the prevalence and impact of child sexual abuse. Joining this effort are representatives from law enforcement, child protective services, area school districts, faith leaders and local youth organizations.
This coalition recently launched an online community resource that provides confidential access to information about the signs and symptoms of abuse, support for families and survivors, and details about the reporting process. The website builds on the strategy and messaging of the original campaign, and addresses the questions and fears people have when they suspect something is not right.
“Research tells us that nearly 70 percent of area residents are confident they’d know what to do to report child sexual abuse,” said Todd Butler, president and CEO at Causewave Community Partners. “However, because most adults don’t know all the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse, it’s easy to miss important signals and abuse goes unreported. Many well-intentioned adults second-guess themselves, struggle with whether they have enough proof to report a suspicion, or worry ‘What if I’m wrong?’ We’re here to ask, ‘But what if you’re right?’ and provide clear, accurate information that will empower adults to take the next step, if necessary.”
Deb Rosen, executive director of Bivona, emphasized that adults need to understand the prevalence of abuse.
“We all share the responsibility to protect our community’s kids,” she said. “One in 10 children in the U.S. will be abused before they turn 18, and 90 percent of children who experience abuse know their abuser. Yet only 15 percent of area residents believe that abuse happens in neighborhoods like their own. Unfortunately, abuse takes place in all of our local neighborhoods, villages and towns. The good news is we can all do something about it.”
The new website addresses myths about child abuse, answers frequently asked questions, provides opportunities for residents to get involved and breaks down the reporting process for concerned community members and mandated reporters — adults who are legally obligated to report suspicions due to their professions or volunteer training.
“Reporting suspicions about child sexual abuse can be intimidating for anyone, from trained educators to volunteer summer soccer coaches,” Rosen said. “That’s why this new website is such a critical resource for everyone who interacts with kids. With access to the right information and professionals to assist, each of us can make a positive impact and protect children from child sexual abuse.”
Visit bebraveforkids.org for information.