April 16, 2014, MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Through confused, innocent eyes, knowing what to do may not be within their range of vision.
One in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday, and less than one-third of the cases are reported, according to www.d2l.org.
Child sexual abuse is any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or two minors; when one exerts power over the other, forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act; and non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or Internet, according to www.d2l.org.
“I think we sometimes think that those are the types of things that happen to other people,” said Rebecca Childress, the prevention and education specialist for the Family Advocacy Center aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. “Everyone is vulnerable. We think this is something that happens in other communities. For example, ‘it couldn’t happen on Quantico,’ or ‘it couldn’t happen in my home.’ We need to know that it can happen, and it does happen.”
Statistics are slowly decreasing, but 90 percent of victims know their abuser. Being educated about signs of abuse can be crucial, according to www.d2l.org.
“I don’t think that there is any evidence that a military child is going to be more at risk or at lesser risk than a child in the community,” said Childress. “There is a high prevalence of child sexual abuse in all walks of life. [Child sexual abuse] is the type of child abuse that truly cuts across all socio-economic backgrounds.”
Children who have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, aggression, defiance, criminal behavior, sexual promiscuity, teen pregnancy, self-inflicted harm, delinquency, decreased school performance, health problems and suicide, according to www.d2l.org.
Childress said a lot of children can recover from childhood sexual abuse and go on to live outstanding lives. She said believing the child, showing them love and support, keeping them engaged, making sure they feel good about themselves and helping them stay involved in the things children enjoy are good ways to keep them from letting their experience define them.
Many resources are available on Quantico, such as the Family Advocacy Program, chaplains and counselors. The FAP offers a class called Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children. It’s a three-hour class that teaches the statistics, warning signs, prevention and response procedures. The class is free and is given by request, preferably to groups of 20 or less. It’s offered to active duty, reserves, retirees, spouses, Department of Defense civilians, contractors and professionals in youth serving organizations who are affiliated with the government.
For more information, call 703-784-2570. To report an incident call 911, or the Virginia State Child Abuse Hotline at 800-552-7096.