Prevention is answer to child abuse

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

Ripley County’s Local Coordinating Council Against Substance Abuse and the Indiana Youth Institute co-sponsored an event called “Prevent Now” at the Southeastern Career Center on May 4.

The program was presented by Sandy Runkle from PCAIN or Prevent Child Abuse in Indiana and included a 24-minute video called “From Darkness to Light.”

The story of how “Darkness to Light” came to be is that an organization called “Stewards of Children” was formed after a sad case of sexual child abuse came to light in Charleston, SC. In that particular case, a trusted educator in a private school sexually abused 39 children over a period of time. As horrible as that was, good came of it. Now, organizations across the country are working to prevent such things from happening again. What happened in Charleston can happen anywhere.

Stewards of Children’s Curricula produces such things as the video called “From Darkness to Light” and actively seeks ways to share such information in communities across the state and nationwide. This particular video focused on the sad impact of child sexual abuse on victims by sharing their childhood stories and how they were able to move on in life. Sadly, the impact on their lives is with them always.

According to Runkle, one in four girls are sexually abused and one in six boys are sexually abused. Most of these children never report the abuse because they are terrified that someone will find out their secret. The reality is that sexual child abuse creates damaged lives.

One child who seeks help cost the taxpayer $14,345.00 for treatment for something that will be with them for always. Forty-eight million dollars is spent annually in Indiana alone to combat the impact of sexual abuse against children. The emotional impact on society translates into dollars and cents needed to try to repair damaged lives. Sixty percent of teenage girls who become pregnant were sexually abused. Sexual child abuse, according to Runkle, is the most expensive crime in America today.

According to Cathy Dwyer with the Community Mental Health Center, which serves Ripley, Franklin, Dearborn, Ohio, and Switzerland counties, small towns are not immune to sexual assault issues. Big city issues like sexting, online sexual predators, and date rape happens in small towns.

Dwyer says she presents an awareness program in schools on date rape and violent sex crimes, only to see some of those students come in for counseling a few years later. According to Internet statistics on sexual violence, 75% of women raped are between the ages of 15 and 21, with the average age being 18. Dwyer said, “Counseling doesn’t mean it all goes away. It’s not an event that is over. It affects every aspect of their life, for the rest of their life.” Education and awareness is part of the battle against such abuse.

But, what do these statistics mean for Ripley County? According to PCAIN, “During 2009, there were a total of 67 cases of sexual abuse investigated in Ripley County. Of that 67, there were 31 cases substantiated based upon a preponderance of the evidence. The remaining 36 cases were either unsubstantiated or indicted (which meant there were concerns but not enough evidence to support a substantiation.) Runkle said what we need is “to resolve to end childhood sexual abuse. Prevention is the only answer! It’s our job, as adults, to protect all children in Ripley County.”

So, what is being done to prevent sexual child abuse? A training has been developed by Stewards of Children Curricula about darkness to light for adults only. It is for adults only because adults are responsible for protecting children. The tipping point for Stewards for Children and PCAIN is to train 5% of the adult population in Indiana by 2011 in ways to prevent child sexual abuse. One can obtain information about these trainings by accessing their website at

Runkle stated that while sexual child abuse happens in every community, the initiative to prevent such abuse is “catching on” with the community. “We are seeing shifts in community awareness and values,” she noted. She explained there are 5-7 categories of adults who interact with children who can best benefit from training. They are adults in schools, faith centers, youth-serving organizations, youth sports, parents, the media and policy makers. Remember, prevention is key to the answer.