Letter, Opinion

We can take more steps to prevent child sex abuse

Dear Editor,

Tens of thousands of children are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in the U.S. every year — in their homes, communities and online. Covid-19 has created a perfect storm for unprecedented levels of abuse by trapping children at home with their abusers and children are also spending an unprecedented amount of time online, increasing their risk to sexual targeting and exploitation. In December of 2020, a CDC report called for the immediate implementation of proven strategies to prevent child sexual abuse, as evidence has shown that public health emergencies exacerbate child sexual abuse risks because of increased stressors and loss of financial and social supports. Child sexual abuse remains Vermont’s most frequently reported and substantiated form of child abuse and Prevent Child Abuse Vermont’s (PCAVT) proven strategies continue to drive down the incidence of child sexual abuse and improve outcomes for the children of our state.

PCAVT’s developmentally-appropriate, trauma-informed programming is used to train childcare providers, teachers, students, parents, social workers, medical professionals and others since 1990 and has resulted in the marked decrease of 71% in victims and 77% in youth who have sexually abused younger children. Though this success is unparalleled, we need to do more! The Vermont Legislature has the opportunity to pass bills into law this year that address human trafficking, define “grooming” for the purpose of sexually abusing a child, and end the possibility of forced child marriages in Vermont.

These crucial steps will decrease the likelihood of child sexual abuse occurring in Vermont and strengthen the path to intervention, healing and justice, should it occur.  More than ever, this is an opportune time to improve Vermont’s legal system and the protection it provides for children and adolescents from sexual abuse.  Visit the Vermont Legislature’s website and look for the bill regarding Human Trafficking S.103; the Grooming of Children H.659; and Ending Child Marriage H.631. Read these bills and contact your legislators to let them know now is the time to increase protections for children through passage of these bills into law.

Now is the time to use your voice to improve the lives of Vermont’s children.

Linda E. Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont

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