• 39°

Don’t ignore victims of abuse

To the Editor:

It seems as if each month has its own awareness campaign, and April is no exception. Two national campaigns that recognize heinous crimes concerning special victims take place in April, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Sexual assault and child abuse have been recognized as crimes for a long time, but like other forms of domestic violence, they are not easily detected, much less discussed in mixed company. These topics remain taboo subjects in many communities, and the campaigns aim to break the silence.

Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and 17.7 million women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. Although many people equate the term with rape, sexual assault is a term applied to many actions. Molestation, marital rape, sexual harassment, acquaintance rape, incest, date rape, stranger rape, and attempted rape are all forms of sexual assault.

Due to the personal and sensitive nature of these crimes, they are not always quickly reported. In fact, many victims never report that they have been sexually abused. Having to relive the assault in order to file charges, receive medical attention, or even receive counseling can be too much for a victim to bear.

More than three million reports of child abuse are made each year, but these reports can include multiple children. To make child abuse even worse, 15 percent of all sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12. By no fault of their own, these children are assaulted — physically, mentally, emotionally and sometimes sexually — by someone whom they should be able to trust with their well being.

Because these children have been attacked by an adult, it is difficult for them to turn to another adult for help. Many times, children do not recognize what has happened as abuse and therefore suffer from the abuse for years.

Both child abuse and sexual assault abuse victims can have a hard time seeking assistance from outsiders. Trust with a secret as detrimental as each of these crimes is something that victims can find difficult to share.

However, communities should be aware of the problems that victims face and make it clear that there is no need to be embarrassed about being a victim of any crime. In fact, victims should feel they can go to any person in their community and be heard — and helped.

In order to stop such forms of violence, we must understand them and be willing to listen to a person who claims to be a victim. As communities pull together to protect their own citizens, there will be less victimization, and more abusers will be stopped. The first step in helping victims is to recognize these forms of abuse for what they are. The next step is to stand up for your neighbor, friend or relative and refuse to allow it to continue.

If you would like more information about sexual assault, child abuse or domestic violence call our office at 925-4365 or our 24-hour hotline at 1-800-969-4365.

Melissa Hedelius

Parent/Community Educator

The Genieve Shelter

Suffolk