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Home Press Release We Can Take More Steps to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
We Can Take More Steps to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
By Linda E. Johnson Tens of thousands of children are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in the U.S. every year — in their homes, communities, and online. The COVID-19 pandemic 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 of becoming sexual targets and being exploited. In December 2020, a CDC report called for the immediate implementation of proven strategies to prevent child sexual abuse. Evidence has shown that public health emergencies exacerbate the risks of child sexual abuse 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 proven strategies continue to drive down the incidence of child sexual abuse and improve outcomes for the children of our state. Prevent Child Abuse Vermont’s developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed programming has been used to train childcare providers, teachers, students, parents, social workers, medical professionals, and others since 1990 and has resulted in a marked decrease of 71% in victims and 77% in youths who have sexually abused younger children. Although 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. Please go to the Vermont Legislature’s website and look for the bills 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 that now is the time to increase protections for children by passing these bills into law. Now is the time to use your voice to improve the lives of Vermont’s children. Linda E. Johnson is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.