12 May Keeping Children Safe from Sexual Abuse

by Dr. Carole Campbell Swiecicki, DNLCC Executive Director

Child sexual abuse is an unspeakable crimCarole 2016e. It can lead to devastating consequences for children and disrupt families. What do parents do when sexual abuse happens in your community or your neighborhood? As the Executive Director of The Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center (DNLCC), I have been asked this question several times this week. Recent allegations of sexual abuse happening under our noses in a Mount Pleasant neighborhood have left many feeling angry, frightened, and confused. As a resident of Mount Pleasant myself, and having specialized in working with child abuse survivors for over 10 years, I am saddened that child abuse continues to happen. Children should grow up in safe homes and should not experience abuse.

However, the fact is that child sexual abuse does happen. It happens in all kinds of neighborhoods, cuts across all demographic groups, and occurs even under the eyes of the most watchful, protective adults. In fact, a nationally representative study conducted in 2013 showed that 2.2% of children experience sexual abuse or assault every year. Based on the number of children living in our communities, that means that 468 children in Mount Pleasant were likely sexually abused or assaulted last year, another 963 living on the Peninsula, and 779 living west of the Ashley. An overwhelming majority of sexual crimes against children are committed by people who were known and trusted by the child. Research also tells us that child abuse victims are at increased risk for emotional problems (such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anger), behavioral problems (including self-harm and suicide attempts), health problems, and school failure.

It is understandable that parents are concerned and frightened. Parents want to keep their children safe from all of the world’s dangers, even though this is not always possible. The truth is, bad things do happen, and we must manage the risks and know where to turn for answers and help. Although car accidents happen every day, most of us still drive cars. We trust that expert help will be available if we need it.

DNLCC provides this for child victims of abuse and trauma. We are here as a resource for answers and help. DNLCC is a Children’s Advocacy Center that provides expert comprehensive care for children and their families from the moment of concern, through the healing process. We do this by conducting neutral, child-friendly interviews to help identify what might have happened. We also provide assessments and treatments that have been proven effective in reducing the impact of abuse on children when it has happened. Further, we coordinate with over 30 partner agencies in our community to ensure a seamless, collaborative response. I am honored to work with partners who share the goal of child safety and healing. Since opening our doors in 1991, DNLCC has helped over 25,000 children and their families. We know that child abuse does not have to define who a child is, or who they will become. Children can, and do, heal.

Combating child sexual abuse takes an entire community. I believe that if any community is up to the challenge – we are that community. The first step is talking about this issue. Find out the signs and symptoms of abuse and what to do if you are concerned. Learn more at our website – www.dnlcc.org. Know that if there is a concern, we are here to help.