Group Reminds WV Adults: It’s Your Responsibility To Prevent Child Abuse

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia children’s advocacy group will kick off its part of a national child abuse prevention campaign this week in Charleston. The One With Courage drive is intended in part to remind adults that kids cannot stop abuse by themselves.

Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, says abuse-prevention efforts have spent years teaching kids to speak up for themselves. While valuable, those efforts tended to ignore the basic responsibility adults have, she says, because in many cases children cannot protect themselves.

“We’re teaching kids about stranger danger and teaching them to say no, but the reality is in so many situations there’s a significant power differential, and they may not be able to say no.”

Chittenden-Laird says one out of four girls and one out of six boys will be a victim of sexual abuse by their 18th birthday, not including those who will suffer neglect or some other kind of maltreatment. Since only a small portion of the children will disclose what happened on their own, it is vital for adults to know what to look for, she says.

“Very likely, you do know a child who is experiencing some type of abuse in their home. It’s important to know what to do if you find or suspect that abuse is occurring, and know how to intervene.”

She says although it takes courage to confront those situations, it’s necessary to break through the silence and denial that keeps these problems hidden.

“It has been a crime of secrecy, and not talking about it has enabled it to happen.”

Part of the One With Courage campaign will be advertisements and a website offering information about how to spot possible abuse and what to do. The campaign kick-off is Tuesday at 10 a.m., at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center, 1701 5th Ave., Charleston.

More information, starting Tuesday, is available at www.wvcan.org, including audio of a public service announcement.

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