Sometimes, it's difficult to not look at numbers as, well, numbers.
While writing an article on the Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County a couple of weeks ago, I came across several disturbing statistics regarding child sexual abuse.
Jana McDermott, executive director of CAP, shared several facts and statistics with me. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. Most child victims never report the abuse. An estimated 39 million survivors of sexual abuse are living in the U.S. today. More than 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abusers.
I've only listed a few; there are several more equally disturbing statistics out there. The numbers bothered me, but I didn't think much about the victims represented by the stats.
Then, McDermott invited me to a Stewards of Children workshop led by CAP. The 2-hour workshops provide area adults the education and awareness to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
I agreed to attend, but I was somewhat nervous about it. I knew listening to people talk about child sexual abuse would take me out of my comfort zone. It's not what I normally do on a Tuesday night.
However, it's likely I'll be writing more articles on CAP in the future, so I didn't feel I could pass up the opportunity to learn more about Stewards of Children. As a visual learner, reading about the workshops didn't provide me with the whole story.
When I arrived at the Frewsburg Relief Zone for the workshop, I was saddened by the stories I heard. We watched videos that included interviews with victims. They told stories of being sexually abused by people they knew and trusted. Some couldn't find the words to tell anyone until many years later.
In addition to the videos, the workshop included discussions. It became clear that other people felt the same way I did.
"I didn't realize it happened so much. We probably have some of those kids in this area," one person said.
"You have to stand up for someone who doesn't have a choice," added another.
McDermott told us that most of the perpetrators aren't held accountable. I think if the Stewards of Children workshops continue to catch on, that will change soon. CAP has set a goal of training 5,000 county residents within the next five years.
I was one of the first 200, and I think it was worth my time. Those who have children or who spend time with them might consider looking into attending one of the workshops.
Those who are interested in learning more can call McDermott at 338-9844 or email her at mcdermot firstname.lastname@example.org.
The numbers I wrote about mean a little more to me now.