To The Daily Sun,
One of the first victims I met was an eighth-grade boy who had been groomed by a relative and molested for many years. He was rescued by his teacher who reported the abuse to DCYF (Division of Children, Youth and Families). We soon learned the teacher was the last of several adults the victim turned to for help, yet the only one to report the abuse.
At the Child Advocacy Centers that serve child victims of abuse throughout New Hampshire, we seek justice and healing for victims in part by bringing together the multidisciplinary team that advocates for them so they may only have to tell of their abuse once. Before Child Advocacy Centers, victims were disclosing their abuse in the back of police cars, then again to social workers and prosecutors, doctors and counselors, having to relive their trauma with each subsequent disclosure.
Our aim is to minimize the trauma child abuse victims face, because there is a cost when we don't. We know when we do not properly intervene, child abuse trauma increasingly leads to long-term mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and engagement with our criminal justice system. A vicious cycle that even leads some victims to victimize.
The moral, societal, political and economic implications of not intervening on behalf of child victims are playing out before us in every community — every neighborhood in New Hampshire — leaving no family untouched.
Last year we served 2,359 child victims throughout the Granite State, 189 in Belknap County. Statistically, we know that for every child victim that reported his or her abuse, nine did not. You read that correctly; only 1 in 10 cases of child abuse are ever reported.
That leaves 21,231 child victims throughout New Hampshire that are still silent, 1,701 in Belknap County alone.
This week we took our appeal to the Statehouse, as we will soon do, to every city, every town, every village and hamlet throughout our Granite State.
Our appeal: To educate and empower New Hampshire residents to know the signs of child abuse and tell responsible authorities when they recognize them.
Granite State adults need to know they are mandatory reporters by law. So if they know, if they recognize signs of abuse in a child, they must tell responsible authorities.
New Hampshire law requires any person who suspects that a child under 18 has been abused or neglected, must report that suspicion to DCYF at (800) 894-5533. You will not be required to provide your name and may remain anonymous.
Nine out of 10 victims still need to be rescued. Our most vulnerable citizens. Our silent majority.
How we respond to these victims will shape the future of our state. So please, know and tell, say something when you see something to protect our children.
To learn more about the signs of child abuse and how to support the Child Advocacy Centers that serve our New Hampshire communities, go to www.KNOWandTELL.org
Joy Barrett, Executive Director
Granite State Children's Alliance
New Hampshire's Network of Child Advocacy Centers
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