JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 12, 2004 – Statistics show that one in four women will have been sexually abused by the time they’re 18, according to Mary Anne Poe of Union University.
“Child sexual abuse is a bigger problem than most people want to think it is,” said Poe, associate professor of social work and chair of the social work department. “A lot of sexual abuse doesn’t get reported as easily and early on.”
Poe said many times when the issue of sexual abuse surfaces, parents become fearful of strangers as the greatest threat to their children.
“But the reality is most child sexual abuse happens with people that you know,” she said. “That complicates all the issues for children.”
Because the problem is a significant one, those who work with children need to be able to recognize the symptoms of child sexual abuse and be able to respond appropriately. That’s the topic of an upcoming forum at Union University that will feature the Nashville organization, “You Have the Power … Know How to Use It.”
Tennessee First Lady Andrea Comte started “You Have the Power” in 1993 as a non-profit agency dedicated to raising awareness about crime and justice issues. In addition to the presentation by “You Have the Power” on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, the forum will feature a panel discussion with local juvenile judge Christy Little; Delaine Bottoms of the Carl Perkins Child Abuse Prevention Center; Mildred Lawhorn, regional administrator for the Department of Children Services; and a sexual abuse survivor.
“This program is designed for anyone who has an interest in protecting children in this way, but especially people who work with children, who would be in a position to recognize and respond to children that are suffering this kind of abuse,” Poe said.
That group would include teachers, preschool workers, nursery workers, youth ministers, social workers and anyone else who wants to do their part to help in the area of child sexual abuse.
Bottoms has seen the presentation from “You Have the Power” before, and one part of it in particular stood out to her.
“One of the most interesting things is they have developed a video where they went into a prison and interviewed people who were perpetrators,” Bottoms said. “So you get to see the perspective of child sexual abuse also from the perpetrator’s standpoint.”
The average age for sexual abuse to take place is 7, Bottoms said, and the abuse usually goes on for three years before the victim tells anybody about it.
“It is a life-altering experience,” she said. “There are some people who take it to the grave with them.”
The forum will be Monday, Nov. 15, from 3-5 p.m. in Harvey Hall in the Student Union Building on Union’s campus. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information about the forum, contact Union’s social work department at (731) 661-5554.