Child abuse is a real problem

Karen Reynolds
Contributing Writer

While people might like to think sexual child abuse is not happening in our community, according to a recent local survey, that is not the case.

The Ripley County Prevent Child Abuse group took an opinion survey at the Ripley County 4-H Fair, where 15 out of 58 people said child abuse is not a problem in the community. However, when asked if anyone in their family had been affected by child abuse, child sexual abuse or neglect, 26 out of those same 58 people said, “yes”.
The reality of child abuse in whatever form is something people like Frank and Paula Goodpaster are trying to make people aware of and better yet, teach how it can be prevented.

A group met at the Versailles Community Church where Sandra Runkle from the Indiana Prevent Child Abuse organization presented a powerful training called “Darkness to Light”. The event was organized by the Goodpasters.

Darkness to Light is a curriculum which was developed and produced by Stewards for Children, a non-profit ministry developed in response to a serial sexual child abuse case that came to light in Charleston, SC.

According to the literature presented, the program is an international non-profit organization that seeks to protect children from sexual abuse by placing responsibility squarely on adult shoulders. They educate adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

While a small number of people took advantage of this training session, it is the hope of the organizers that more will become interested in how they can help to slow, or better yet, stop the growing epidemic of child abuse.

Any adult is eligible for the training which can be offered through Ripley County PCA. Parents are ideal candidates for the training along with anyone who works with children in schools, churches, businesses and sports activities.

Frank Goodpaster noted that it is typical that many churches just do not tend to address such matters as sexual child abuse. The Goodpasters pastor the Upper Room Fellowship at Napoleon.

It is the belief of the Ripley County PCA that if five percent of the community were trained on the subject, it would be the tipping point to making the community safer for children. The Goodpasters believe as adults become more aware of this issue, it would help change our culture.

Darkness to Light provided some startling statistics that should motivate any adult to action. They include but are not limited to:

• It is highly likely that you know a child who has been or is being sexually abused.

• Experts estimate that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays.

• 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited while on the Internet.

• Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults, including those on adults, occur to children ages 17 and under.

• The median age for reported sexual abuse is 9 years old.

• Most child victims never report the abuse.

• Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who “tell” and are not believed may be at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems often lasting into adulthood.

• An estimated 39 million survivors of sexual abuse exist in America.

• The greatest risk to children doesn’t come from strangers but from friends and family.

• More than 90% of children who are sexually abused know their abusers.

• People who abuse children look and act just like everyone else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy to gain access to children.

• Young girls who are sexually abused are more likely to develop eating disorders during adolescence.

• Victims of child sexual abuse report more post traumatic stress disorder, sadness, and problems at school.

• Victims of sexual abuse have more physical health problems.

• Approximately 70% of sexual offenders of children have between 1 and 9 victims. 20-25% have 10 to 40 victims.

• Serial child molesters may have as many as 400 victims in their lifetimes.
While these aren’t the complete list of statistics given, they are enough to raise a red flag of concern.

According to Barbara Bowling, office director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, in Ripley County alone, there were 67 reported cases of sexual abuse during 2009. Of those 67 cases, 31 were substantiated. This means that there was a preponderance of the evidence that the abuse did occur. Thirty-three cases were unsubstantiated and three cases were indicated. Indicated cases means that there was not enough evidence to support the allegations, but there was concern that the abuse could have occurred.

Community members can make a difference. If you suspect sexual child abuse or any other kind of abuse directed at a child, don’t hesitate. Call the Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556 or your local police department.

For more information about the Darkness to Light program you can contact the Goodpasters at 812-212-8407. Paula asked the simple yet complex question, “What would our community be like if we were able to eradicate sexual child abuse?”