A major obstacle to preventing the sexual abuse of children is getting people to realize that it is a common problem.
A local survey released this month shows that Rochester-area residents believe child sexual abuse is “more of a national problem than a significant issue in Rochester” and more of a problem in low-income communities.
That’s not true, said Mary Whittier, Bivona Child Advocacy Center executive director, who is preparing for her group’s sixth annual Summit on Child Abuse next month.
“Child sexual abuse does not discriminate by income, education level or neighborhood,” Whittier said in a release from the Ad Council of Rochester. “Every year, we work with children from all parts of the greater Rochester community: from all races and ethnicities and from all types of home settings. In 2013, we served 1,600 children. Since it is estimated that only 1 in 10 children ever disclose, the actual number of children abused in our community may be as high as 16,000.”
Todd Butler, president and CEO of the Ad Council of Rochester, which sponsored the survey, agreed.
“This survey shows we have a lot of work to do to ensure people understand that child sexual abuse happens more often than they think, and that there are resources available to help guide both adults and children through these difficult and sometimes ambiguous situations,” Butler said. “We’ve been working with a broad collaborative to develop a strategy that will give adults in our community access to the resources they need to protect children.”
• Those at lower income levels saw child sexual abuse as a bigger concern than those at higher income levels, at 27 percent vs. 21 percent, respectively.
• Most area residents say they are confident they would know what to do to report suspected child sexual abuse, with reporting to law enforcement the most frequently mentioned action.
• Those from upper incomes and with college degrees are slightly less confident that they would know what to do to respond.
• All audiences also are much more likely to report incidents when they have direct evidence of abuse than when they merely suspect it (96 percent vs. 55 percent).
• The largest barriers to reporting abuse are all related to a lack of certainty (lack of proof, fear of being wrong, etc.).
“The study clearly shows that area residents want direct proof of abuse before they report the incident,” the release reads.
This study was done online of Rochester-area adults age 18 and older and included 226 respondents from the nine-county greater Rochester region.