Article from SeacoastOnline.com
YORK, Maine – Jean Browne had been sexually abused at 5, and as a teenager, was a victim of date rape. “I’ve walked the path, so hopefully I can share my story with kids and help them,” she said.
Dennis O’Connor was abused by his parish priest when he was a kid, and his disclosure ultimately led to the priest’s prosecution. “We need to figure out how keep these people away from kids,” he said.
These York residents were among a group of about 30 people who came to the York Library Friday afternoon to become involved in a local campaign to raise awareness of child sexual abuse.
The event was organized by Dr. Jeanine Ward, an emergency room physician at York Hospital; resident Kara DioGuardi, a music producer, songwriter and former “American Idol” judge; and York Police Officer Jamie Rooney – all of whom are comfortable now sharing their own child sexual abuse stories. But they recognize that many people are not, and many more do not want to hear about it.
“People don’t want to talk about it,” said DioGuardi. “It’s ugly. The public doesn’t get angry enough to say, ‘We have to stop this.’ They see it on TV, and they turn it off. But we’re not going to deal with this issue if we run from it. Don’t we want to protect our children?”
The purpose of the meeting is to introduce to York a community model based on a Massachusetts program called the Enough Abuse Campaign. The campaign works to train and educate residents, work with organizations like schools to make sure staff are properly trained, and work with state legislators to affect legislation.
The idea is that everyday citizens drawn together by a desire to bring awareness to this issue can work to empower an entire community, said keynote speaker Jetta Bernier. Bernier is the director of MassKids, which created the Enough Abuse Campaign.
“The problem is large. The scope is difficult to imagine,” she said. For instance 39 million Americans have been victims of child sexual abuse; last year, 18,000 cases were reported in Maine – although advocates say that is likely just the tip of the iceberg as many children never report.
Among the people attending the meeting were a number of professionals who are peripherally or directly involved in child sexual assault services. Among them was Molly Louison of Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine. Louison will be program manager of the York County Child Advocacy Center when it opens on May 22.
The center primarily deals with children victims of sexual abuse and their families, after a disclosure has been made. “My goal with you guys is to help you put me out of a job,” she said.
Unfortunately, she said, it’s “really hard to measure” the number of cases in York County. “It’s a silent crime, a hidden crime, and it thrives in isolation. We can get sad or we can get angry. But someone has to do this work.”
Officer Rooney said she, Ward and DioGuardi have all been contacted in recent weeks by people who couldn’t come to the meeting but were interested in participating. Ward is an Enough Abuse trainer, and is ready and willing to hold a training in York. Rooney told the residents at the meeting that they are looking for “some strong folks who are willing to step out there. It doesn’t mean you have to share your story, it just means you’re willing to go out into the community and start empowering others.”
Another meeting will be scheduled within the next month.
If you or someone you care about was sexually abused and you would like advice from an attorney about the rights and options for victims of child sexual abuse, please contact Crew Janci LLP today for a free, confidential consultation at 1-888-407-0224 or by using our private online form. We will treat you with discretion and respect.