In light of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal we’re reminded of a dirty secret that impacts thousands of children in the state of Texas: sexual abuse.
We’re all privy to this secret but it’s something that we’d just rather not think about.
It’s happening in homes, churches, schools and throughout our communities. In fact, in 2009 alone there were 6,316 confirmed allegations of child sexual abuse in our state.
While this may seem like an alarming number, statistics show that this number reflects only 32 percent of all child abuse and neglect cases, which suggests that the true number of child victims is closer to 20,000.
How can this be?
There are many pressing issues facing our children today. Poverty, hunger and lack of quality education are just a few among them.
With so many problems, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, and like one of many coins tossed into a dark well, the issue of child sexual abuse does not have enough light shed upon it.
However, the recent Penn State scandal has brought the issue of child sexual abuse to the surface.
People nationwide are in an uproar at the allegations. It’s hard not to turn on the television or radio without hearing more about the alleged young victims and a formerly well-respected man’s fall from grace.
Stories of child sexual abuse are unfortunately too often old news.
So why is the public reaction so strong to this scandal? What has caused the outrage? The hard truth is that although we know that thousands of children fall victim to sexual abuse each year the fact that a public figure is the alleged perpetrator plays to the draw of this particular scandal.
We as a society tend to hold public figures to a higher standard. But in doing so, we oftentimes forget to realize that we too, must be held to a higher standard, especially when the well-being of our children is at stake.
Moral obligations aside, in the state of Texas, every person has a legal obligation to immediately alert authorities if there’s any reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected.
Child victims often remain silent about their abuse, tormented by shame and guilt. The burden to speak out and end the abuse should not be theirs alone to bear.
Thus, we should not only be talking about the eight victims in the Penn State grand jury report, but we should also be raising awareness and protecting the thousands of other children who are being sexually abused in our own state.
Although child sexual abuse tops all news reports in recent weeks, we must not forget about the thousands of children who are sexually abused each year that don’t make the headlines.
Sanborn is president and CEO of Children at Risk, a research and advocacy non-profit dedicated to speaking out and driving change for the children of Texas.
As published in the Houston Chronicle on November 20, 2011.