It’s an unspeakable problem. No one is comfortable talking about child sexual abuse, and that in itself is another problem.
Kathy Andersen is trying to get people talking about the issue with an ad campaign which started running Wednesday on the Metrorail digital message boards.
"I’ve had some reaction from people who’ve seen the initial campaign and that’s been wow, this is strong, and this is shocking,” Anderson said.
The ads are provocative by design. They show children with phrases such as, “Mommy, daddy touches me.”
For Andersen, the campaign is personal.
"So I was sexually abused by my adoptive father from the age of three, it’s the earliest age I can remember," Andersen said. “I was too scared to confront him, not only too scared but you’re traumatized as a child, you get stuck in freeze mode."
Countless kids suffer in silence.
“What keeps child sexual abuse silent is the isolation of it, young children can’t readily confront a father or an uncle, or a friend of the family,” Andersen explained. “This campaign aims to open the door, open the dialogue, have mothers, for example, be the heroes and see the signs more, hear things, see whether a child’s behavior might suggest that something’s just not right."
Childhood sexual abuse can lead to a lifetime of issues with mental health.
“I’ve struggled with that, I think many of us appear great on the outside, but on the inside, there’s still work we have to do every day to keep acting life as normal,” said Andersen.
The importance of the effort, she said, is illustrated with statistics. Andersen points out that roughly one in four kids are sexually abused by age 18, and 90% of the perpetrators are family members or friends of the family.
“People don’t believe it because they think it’s so shocking, and I understand that, it’s a shocking issue that people don’t want to see especially when it’s mostly in the family,” Andersen said.
Andersen is bankrolling the effort herself, through her nonprofit group End1in4.org. She has spent $10,000 so far and you will soon be seeing those same ads on highway billboards all over South Florida. They urge people to call 240-END-1IN4, and all calls are answered by the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.
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