Child Abuse Prevention Month

April 1 is the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month (as well as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month). Today is “Wear Blue Day” as a way to participate in a national day to highlight child abuse prevention.

According to statistics, 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. I received an email last week from someone I don’t know who pointed out that a serial child murderer and child rapist died recently of brain cancer in prison. There are other horrible discussions of this man’s life of depravity and crime online. The person who sent me the information reminded me that “Oakland County is Still a VERY SICK COMMUNITY/COUNTY.  Traffickers.” Knowing what I know now, and have tried to convey to officials in Michigan, this is no surprise.

Here is some good news. A bill in Colorado to let survivors of child sexual assault sue their abusers in civil court, with no time limitations, is close to the finish line. A second bill would allow organizations and entities such as school districts or churches that turned a blind eye to the abuse to likewise be sued for civil damages, with no expiration date. The bills would not apply retroactively, but it would affect cases of child sexual misconduct where the victim had not turned 24 by Jan. 1, 2022.

One of the bill’s sponsors explained:

“It feels so powerful to be able to look the survivors who’ve been working on this for so long in the eye and say ‘Look, we believe you,'” said [Rep. Dafna] Michaelson Jenet, who spoke candidly on the House floor about her personal experiences with sexual assault. SB-73 wouldn’t allow sexual assault survivors who’ve been testifying on such legislation for years to sue their abusers, she pointed out, because the statute of limitations has already expired for them. “Truly they were in this to protect the next guy or girl, and it’s been quite a battle,” Michael Jenet said of those survivors. “It’s really painful retelling your story year after year after year. And it’s the honor of my life that I get to work on this bill.”

Of course, the Colorado Catholic Conference and the Boy Scouts oppose the legislation.

Republican Rep. Matt Soper of Delta, Colorado, is one of the sponsors on both bills, partly because one statistic about childhood sexual abuse sticks with him: Victims often don’t disclose the abuse until their 50s. Surprised? Most victims of childhood sexual abuse never report at all.

This is progress. Start by believing victims and by outing those who turn a blind eye or obstruct justice to protect predators. Money is sometimes the only language some people speak. That’s why the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts pay their lobbyists and attorneys so well. Now they know for sure: It’s gonna cost you.

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