Hudson Valley Parent

HVP March 2017

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28 Hudson Valley Parent n March 2017 parents or of being harmed by the abuser. As such, they often delay dis- closure until adulthood. Factors such as the relationship to the perpetra- tor, age at first incident of abuse, use of physical force, severity of abuse, and demographic variables, such as gender and ethnicity, impact a child's willingness to disclose abuse." And what if the perpetrator is not a stranger and the episode is not isolated? According to the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, more than 90 percent of juvenile sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way. U.S. Department of Justice na- tional statistics confirm that only about 10 percent of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child, 60 percent are known to the child but are not family mem- bers (for example family friends, babysitters, child care providers, and By LINDA FREEMAN A t the time, I was an 11-year- old girl in a Catholic school uniform returning books to the public library. As I passed a group of teenage boys, they grabbed me, slammed me against the book deposit box and groped between my legs while I silently tried to shield myself and shove their many hands away. I didn't tell anyone; I was so ashamed. It wasn't until I was an adult and reunited with my best friend from elementary school on Facebook that we discovered we both had similar experiences. What bothers me most decades later is not only that this happened to us, but that we both buried it deep inside of ourselves - think- ing it was our fault and something to be ashamed of - until 40 years later when we started discussing our childhood experiences and won- dered why we kept such secrets from each other. And yet even though we have been able to share what had hap- pened as adults, we also talked about whether the children of today feel more comfortable and confident about reporting abusive incidents like this. Does your child lay mute at night replaying episodes she is too ashamed or terrified to reveal? Does she think she is protecting someone by not reporting abuse? Or blaming herself for what happened? How many more young people - like myself and my best friend - remain silent? According to a national resource guide dealing with sex offenders published by the U.S. Department of Justice, "Disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their (Continued on Page 30) The silence that may follow sexual abuse

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