NCAC aims to better inform the community dialogue on child sexual abuse

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- In light of the numerous number of sexual abuse and sexual harassment cases being reported, one organization strives to help better inform the national dialogue on the issue.

"It's very unsettling because it's so incredibly disturbing what is being talked about. Is this really what's happening in the United States?"

Talking about sexual abuse is hard. Chris Newlin, the Executive Director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) believes that it is so difficult because "sexual abuse is a highly emotional issue."

Admitting that something happened can be even harder, Newlin says most child sexual abuse victims never disclose the abuse during their childhood.  "There were certain lessons to be learned. 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all.' And, 'don't be talking about any adult, you're just a kid.' Those messages while meant out of respect, had a chilling effect because children were shut down from this."

The recent sexual allegations are all aimed at high profile people, and that could also be an intimidating factor for a victim. "You're also coming forward about someone who others like and appreciate. And saying something negative about someone who is respected can be scary."

According to the NCAC, when individuals speak out about abuse, personal questions and attacks usually follow. They say the reality is that child sexual abuse occurs in secret and typically only two people know what happened - the victim and the offender. Investigations can be challenging because there is rarely any medical evidence or other proof of abuse, but the NCAC says they are essential in determining whether abuse has occurred.

"We should appropriately investigate all allegations of child sexual abuse.  We should demonstrate support for survivors of child sexual abuse.  We should not espouse opinions about the veracity of allegations based on limited information.  We should demand accountability for those who harm children.  It is adults’ responsibility to protect children and support survivors of abuse."

The NCAC provided the following information about child sexual abuse.

  • 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

To put this in context, child sexual abuse occurs at 75 times the rate of childhood cancer.  As disturbing as this sounds, it was worse 30 years ago.  In the 1980’s, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys was sexually abused prior to age 18.

  • Most victims of child sexual abuse never disclose during childhood.

In fact, many people reading this article were victims of sexual abuse who have never told another person about this experience.

  • Most child sexual abuse is committed by an individual known to the child.

As such, it is often a person the child knows and trusts, and someone who is also trusted by the child’s caregivers and others in the community.

  • People often believe that children fabricate allegations of abuse.

While it is true that we occasionally have children who fabricate a story, the most common lie we hear is children who say, “nothing happened” when it really did.  How can this be?  It is simple – disclosing child sexual abuse is very difficult.

The National Children’s Advocacy Center was created in 1985 to coordinate the multidisciplinary response to child abuse, especially child sexual abuse.  Since their inception, the NCAC has served as a model for more than 1,000 Children’s Advocacy Centers operating in all 50 states and in 29 countries throughout the world.  Since 1985, they have served more than 10,000 victims of child abuse from North Alabama and trained more than 140,000 professionals from throughout the world.

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