OPINION

Letter to the Editor: Join us and help these kids SHINE

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
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To the Editor:

Many know that April is designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month and it has been that way since 1983, but unless we can talk about child sexual abuse all year, preventing it is impossible.

Child sexual abuse still lives in secrecy and shame. In our state alone, numerous people have survived child sexual abuse and live with the consequences every day.

The stories of those survivors do not have to end with the thoughts of “just surviving.” Our organization, SARAH’S House Child Advocacy Center (CAC), is joining a national movement called the SHINE Campaign. Stories of trauma can evolve into stories of hope and healing! Through this campaign, we at SARAH’S House CAC are changing the conversation around child sexual abuse. We are part of the light that survivors can turn to and we are encouraging members of the public to be a part of that light as well.

Our CAC has served 87 children since July of 2020 and 58 of those came with sexual abuse allegations. We were able to offer those children forensic interviewing services, advocacy and mental health referrals if needed. The conversations around child sexual abuse helps to increase visibility of survivors for those who have not yet sought support and for children who don’t know who might be safe to turn to. The work of CACs and the support of our partners, volunteers and donors are not just symbolic; it has a real impact in both preventing and responding to child abuse.

    Yet we could serve so many more children and provide them with more of the healing resources they need, if these real, important and hopeful conversations happened everywhere. Child abuse happens in homes, churches and schools. It happens in sports facilities, camps and so many other places around our communities where happy childhood memories should be made. These conversations can be uncomfortable, can cause issues within families and communities and can bring up terrible memories but by removing the stigma around this abuse it can create a force much more powerful than the pain: HEALING!

    Survivors have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s time they learned how deep their support goes. It’s time that support becomes more visible. No matter how scary it can be to speak your truth, it needs to be known that so many are there and there is no truth too fearful to utter!

As we recognize and bring awareness to the issue of child abuse and child sexual abuse by sharing this information we hope to expand the healing and the prevention. In honor of the adult survivors and the child survivors, we are increasing awareness and helping push the movement for healing and justice for the children that we serve each year and in defense of the children whose abuse that we may prevent, we ask you to join us.

    If you are a survivor, a friend or family member of one, an advocate or someone who just wants to show their support, we need you as a part of this work! To get involved in the SHINE Campaign, to join the community of support, to learn more about the campaign, to learn more about SARAH’S House Child Advocacy Center (a program through Burlington United Methodist Family Services) or to get help, call Ashley Warner at 304-788-7720 or email awarner@bumfs.org.

It’s time to listen, it’s time to talk and it’s time to heal!