Kids are being trapped in abusive worlds largely because people — who can— choose not to stand up and speak out for them, says a child sex abuse survivor.
And a current campaign, sponsored by the Calgary Sun, urges those who would keep the devastating abuse secret to set children free by coming forward.
Glori Meldrum, founder of Little Warriors, a national charity behind the Stand Up For Kids public education campaign, said people who suspect child abuse is happening must go to police.
“It’s about people speaking up,” she said Saturday.
“They’re little – we’ve got to be their voices, we’ve got to shine a light on it.”
Sexually abused by a relative from age 8 to 10, she knows how important it is for people to be a child’s voice.
Even then, it is just the start of a difficult journey.
With Meldrum’s mother was on side, other family members refused to believe the allegations, instead protecting the family secret and a man who was later convicted, not in her case, but of abusing other children.
“A lot of family members covered it up,” she said.
“Everyone called me a liar … in a way my family reaction was equally as bad as my abuse.”
Little Warriors, which focuses on eduction and prevention of child sex abuse, has trained thousands of teachers to recognize signs it might be happening to someone they know.
It advises people to know what to look for and then to act on it.
Calgary police Child Abuse Staff Sgt. Leah Barber said “pedophiles are good at what they do,” and it’s crucial for people in a child’s world to “listen to their spidey senses,” if they think a child is being hurt.
“You think (an offender) is a creepy, slimy, gross guy and in reality he could be your neighbour,” she said.
“We have only one file that I can think of (from last year) where it was evident that there was physical abuse along with the sexual abuse — most sexual abuse offenders don’t use force because they don’t want the child to disclose.”
Child abuse Det. Ross Hart said there are heartbreaking scenarios proving how tough it is for a child to take steps to end the abuse.
In one case he investigated, a girl enduring ongoing rapes by her foster brother for a long time said nothing because she didn’t want to lose her foster family’s love.
In another case, a 14-year-old girl was raped more than 200 times by a half brother but long stayed silent “because he mom was happy” with the abuser’s father, Hart said.
“She didn’t want to break up the family,” he said.
“So she would go to bed every single night and knew it was coming but she didn’t want her family to split.”
It is legally mandated for people to report to children’s services if someone discloses abuse.
• On average, a child will disclose to five people before abuse actually gets reported.
• About half never tell anyone.
• 95% of those abusers are relatives or friends of their victims.
• Six months is the average time served by a convicted child sex offender
• One in three girls will be sexually abused. The average age is 12. One in six boys will be abused. The average age is 4.
— Source, Little Warriors