To the editor: As National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month has come to an end, the campaign to raise awareness and have a community conversation on these issues must continue.
Statistics on child abuse are staggering. One in four girls - and one in six boys - will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Most victims suffer in silence. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of abuse victims never report what happened to them. Even more alarming is that more than 90 percent of perpetrators are someone that an abused child knows and trusts – a coach, camp counselor, teacher, someone in their faith community, or a family member. This is a public health crisis that requires a full-scale community response.
Incidences of sexual assault are just as troubling. One in six women and 1 in 26 men will experience a sexual assault in adulthood. Young men in college face a risk of sexual assault five times higher than the national average.
Barnstable County Children’s Cove, Independence House, a Safe Place Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services CONNECT to End Violence on Martha’s Vineyard have partnered on a joint public awareness campaign titled “It’s Time to Have the Conversation.” With this collaborative campaign, a first in our organizations' histories, we have united to bring the issues of exploitation, assault and abuse of adults and children to the forefront of our community conversations. We created an eye-catching poster featuring Cape & Island imagery, a QR code and website address to catch the public’s attention and learn about the services our agencies provide. The website https://www.capecod.gov/itstime includes direct access to emergency hotlines to help survivors of abuse gain access to supportive services.
We are partnering with regional Chambers of Commerce to encourage local businesses to display our posters in bathrooms and other communal areas where victims of abuse may see them and learn about the help available to them. We are also collaborating with these organizations in a social media campaign to increase regional impact.
Our messages of support and awareness are often missing from places where people gather. We are bringing our message to places where people work, shop, and eat. For too long, sexual and domestic violence has been a taboo subject hidden in the shadows, which increases the likelihood of victimization and minimizes the chances someone will receive support.
Sexual assault, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation happens here. It happens in every town on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. It impacts people of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, and socioeconomic status.
It’s Time to Have the Conversation. It’s time to discuss these issues so that together we can create communities where everyone lives free from abuse, has a voice that is heard, and can enjoy healthy, safe, and empowered lives. And we need your help to do it.
For more information, go to https://www.capecod.gov/itstime or reach out to us to join this awareness effort.
Jacob Stapledon, Children’s Cove, Community Engagement and Education Program Manager
Chris Morin, Independence House, Director of Prevention, Education and Outreach
Morgan Beausoleil, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services CONNECT to End Violence, Programming Manager
Rachel Devine, A Safe Place Nantucket, Director of Development