‘One with Courage’ cam­paign aims to pre­vent child sex abuse

Gen­eral Sean Reyes

Serve Daily - - EMPOWERING LIBERTY - By Utah At­tor­ney

“Courage” is most of­ten ex­pressed to de­scribe the brav­ery of those on our front lines. Our sol­diers, po­lice of­fi­cers, fire­fight­ers and oth­ers com­mit­ted to public ser­vice regularly demon­strate de­grees of courage to pro­tect the rest of us from harm.

But, in to­day’s world, we must ex­pand our def­i­ni­tion of “courage” to in­clude the mind­set or spirit that en­ables the com­mon citizen among us to face dif­fi­culty, dan­ger and fear. It is crit­i­cal to con­sider those who push stigma and dis­com­fort aside to talk about tough is­sues that are of­ten left in the shad­ows. Coura­geous in­di­vid­u­als make it pos­si­ble for the most vul­ner­a­ble among us to find pro­tec­tion from harm.

Child sex­ual abuse is a crime of si­lence. This abuse thrives by the se­crets kept by the per­pe­tra­tor and the vic­tim. Sadly, many of these sit­u­a­tions are based on a trusted re­la­tion­ship. The threat of ex­po­sure ig­nites in­stinc­tive re­flexes to pre­serve fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings, even when they are dam­ag­ing and de­struc­tive.

The Utah At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice houses and ad­min­is­ters the state-run Chil­dren’s Jus­tice Cen­ter Pro­gram. CJC is ded­i­cated to help­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties re­spond to al­le­ga­tions of child abuse in ways that are ef­fec­tive, ef­fi­cient and min­i­mize trauma for the child. Each of the 22 cen­ters in Utah pro­vides a child-fo­cused, fa­cil­ity-based pro­gram in which rep­re­sen­ta­tives from law en­force­ment, child pro­tec­tion, pros­e­cu­tion, men­tal health, med­i­cal ser­vices and vic­tim ad­vo­cacy work to­gether in sup­port of the vic­tim. This com­pre­hen­sive care and pro­tec­tion group con­ducts in­ter­views and makes team de­ci­sions about in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pros­e­cu­tion and treat­ment of child abuse cases. In an av­er­age year, Utah’s CJCs con­duct 4,500 in­ter­views, han­dle 5,500 cases and serve as many as 15,000 peo­ple.

In Utah County from April 2014 to March 2015, there were 1,016 cases of child abuse ac­cord­ing to CJC re­ports; 72 per­cent of the cases were at­trib­uted to sex­ual abuse and 6 per­cent to phys­i­cal abuse. With sus­pects made up of mostly males (88.5 per­cent) ver­sus fe­males (11.5 per­cent), alarm­ing sta­tis­tics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sex­u­ally as­saulted be­fore they reach the age of 18. Cur­rent es­ti­mates show that more than 90 per­cent of child sex­ual as­sault vic­tims know their per­pe­tra­tors; many are known to the child as a fam­ily mem­ber, friend or ac­quain­tance. Sadly, most of these chil­dren do not dis­close abuse un­til adult­hood, if ever at all.

Keep­ing fam­i­lies safe is a top pri­or­ity in our AG of­fice. In ad­di­tion to our statewide CJCs, the AG’s of­fice has 36 Child Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion as­sis­tant at­tor­neys gen­eral and the nec­es­sary staff to en­sure safe liv­ing en­vi­ron­ments for chil­dren in ev­ery county through­out the state. Utah County CJCs also serve Juab and Mil­lard coun­ties. We work in tan­dem with our part­ners at the Di­vi­sion of Child and Fam­ily Ser­vice. Many of our at­tor­neys work cases at all hours of the day and night to seek ju­di­cial pro­tec­tion for a child who is in im­mi­nent dan­ger of abuse or ne­glect while also re­spect­ing parental and fam­ily rights.

Our of­fice also ad­min­is­ters In­ter­net Crimes Against Chil­dren, a statewide multi-ju­ris­dic­tional task force that in­ves­ti­gates and pros­e­cutes in­di­vid­u­als who use the In­ter­net to ex­ploit chil­dren. ICAC in­cludes 32 af­fil­i­ate law en­force­ment agen­cies, 80 of­fi­cers and three full-time pros­e­cu­tors. In ad­di­tion, our SE­CURE Strike Force in­ves­ti­gates and pros­e­cutes hu­man traf­fick­ing threats that of­ten­times in­clude chil­dren.

We are hon­ored to team with DCFS to launch a new ini­tia­tive, “One with Courage,” in Utah. This ini­tia­tive asks each of us, no mat­ter our sit­u­a­tion, to have courage. Courage is nec­es­sary for a child vic­tim to speak up. Courage is nec­es­sary for a sur­vivor to re­mem­ber and share a story. Courage is nec­es­sary for an adult to lis­ten and act to help a child. Courage is nec­es­sary for ev­ery­one of us to vig­i­lantly build aware­ness and en­gage in an open di­a­logue about child sex­ual abuse.

It is time for each of us to be One with Courage. You are in­vited to learn more about the unique role our Chil­dren’s Jus­tice Cen­ters play in pro­vid­ing com­pre­hen­sive, co­or­di­nated and com­pas­sion­ate ser­vices to child vic­tims of abuse. We welcome you to find out more about the Chil­dren’s Jus­tice Cen­ter Pro­gram and our part­ner­ships with coun­ties through­out Utah. We are priv­i­leged to be part of the re­sponse that is de­signed to bring jus­tice and heal­ing to the chil­dren who come through our doors.

Most im­por­tantly, One with Courage is a com­pi­la­tion of the ex­pe­ri­ences of those liv­ing in Utah to in­spire the courage re­quired to take ac­tion against abuse. Start a di­a­logue about this is­sue, equip your­self with the facts or vol­un­teer at a lo­cal Chil­dren’s Jus­tice Cen­ter.

Please take time to learn how to join the fight at onewith­courageu­tah.org.

Utah At­tor­ney Gen­eral Sean Reyes

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