Opinion: When Are We Going to Create a Safe Community to Protect Children from Abuse?

By Penelope Ettinger
The Patch
June 26, 2012

When are we going to create a safe community to protect our children from sexual abuse? Jerry Sandusky has been convicted of 45 out of 48 counts of child sexual abuse. Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia, in a landmark clergy-abuse trial, was convicted of child endangerment for covering up abuse claims. In the past year, coverage of child sexual abuse has increased with more than 1,800 stories in the news. Yet, in our communities we do little to create a safe environment for our children.

The alarming statistics of child sexual abuse are well substantiated – 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Ninety percent of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child (and the family) knows, trusts and in many cases loves. Thirty percent of these cases are committed by a family member. And most sexual abuse is never reported. The grim reality is child sexual abuse happens in every community. If the child doesn’t receive treatment, the adverse emotional and social impact on the child victim is life-long. The long-term economic costs to business and community are great.

Still, there is a solution. It is our primal moral responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about these potential dangers in our communities. Recently the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse was formed to do exactly this –educate every adult who lives and/or works in the greater Mercer area on how to keep children safe, how to recognize signs of abuse and how to respond with compassion to any child who tells of abuse. The Coalition, which is part of a statewide effort, comprises a growing group of community leaders from business, the faith-based community, health care, , the media, youth and social service organizations, government and education to address this issue within their own disciplines and to get the message out to constituents—and where appropriate—adopting appropriate child safety policies.

In order to get the powerful message out the community, the coalition is developing the time-tested advertising and marketing approach of exposing a target audience with a specific message 7-10 times in different ways in order to adopt a message. The various disciplines in the coalition can target the right people and convey the message in a language their audience will be able to relate to.

Now is the time for us to learn the facts about child sexual abuse. Now is the time to begin and continue talking to the children in our lives in a way that is open, honest and factual. Now is the time to ask the director of your child’s sports club, camp, church youth group or school, if they have a child safety/child sexual abuse policy in place. It’s time to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse occurring. Always is the time to believe and respond compassionately when a child tells you that he/she has been abused in any way.

For information on the newly established Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and for information on getting help for a child who has been abused, visit or call us at 609-695-3739.

Penny Ettinger is the Executive Director of PEI Kids in Lawrenceville, NJ. Currently serving approximately 16,000 children and their families annually, the nonprofit organization began 26 years ago when its founders discovered that there were no services provided for local children who had been sexually abused. Since then, PEI Kids’ mission has been dedicated to promoting and maintaining a safe environment for all children. The Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse is part of a statewide initiative with Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.