Sometime this month I hope our rabid anti-Trump media find a little time to cover a subject that has been very important to me since I was eight - child sexual abuse.
Child abuse of all kinds is an epidemic here and around the world. In 2015 about 700,000 American children were victims of neglect or physical or sexual abuse. How many more cases were never reported to authorities is unknown.
Neglect accounted for 75 percent of victims, most of whom were under a year old. About 17 percent suffered physical abuse and 8.4 percent suffered sexual abuse. Some kids were abused in multiple ways.
The long-term effects of abuse on children are well known. Abused children are more likely to end up arrested as juveniles and adults, more likely to commit violent crime and more likely to end up in prison and develop psychological disorders.
Child sexual abuse isn’t something that affects just poor kids or is committed by a few “celebrity” predators like Jerry Sandusky, the convicted serial rapist, child molester and retired Penn State football coach.
American boys and girls of all ages, races, ethnicities and economic backgrounds are vulnerable. According to the experts, one of every three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before they reach 18. These innocents won’t be victimized by random strangers. Sixty-eight percent will be molested by a family member and 90 percent of victims know their abuser in some way.
So it’s not just the parish priest, the gym teacher or the odd guy down at the end of the street we need to watch. More than likely, it’s Uncle Charlie. And whether it’s in the family, in the church or in the school, it most likely will be the abuser who is believed and protected, not the child.
A child has to tell someone they’ve been abused seven times before the first person listens to him or her - and even then they still may not be believed.
One predator will sexually abuse 117 kids in their lifetime. That means when you see someone arrested and charged with a couple of abuses, it’s usually because they didn’t get caught earlier in their lives.
Predators are quick to attach themselves to vulnerable or troubled children who are looking for someone in their lives.
The guy who molested me at an after-school day camp and took naked photos of me in 1953, when I was eight, taught me how to throw a football and shoot a basketball. He gave me the fatherly accolades and “atta-boys” I was not getting because my father and mother, Jane Wyman, had divorced and I was living with my mother.
Every child needs parental love, accolades and “atta-boys.” If you don’t give them to your child, they might be given by a predator. So be a good father, a good parent.
I never told my mother I had been molested or that the guy who did it took photos of me. I didn’t tell anyone until 1987 - 34 years later, when I was in my forties.
“Why didn’t you tell someone when it happened?” I’ve been asked. But that’s the worst possible thing you can say to a kid. For an 8-year-old, it’s not in their lexicon: “I went to school, threw a football and was molested today, Mom. What else do you want to know?”
What happened to me 64 years ago, still lingers today. You never outgrow it. You don’t outlive it.
Sexual abuse is the worst possible thing you can do to mess up the young mind and heart of an innocent child. Unfortunately, as I know, death can become a welcome option.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
First established by presidential proclamation by my father in 1983, it’s a time for families and communities to make themselves aware of child abuse and neglect and work together to prevent it.
There are many fine government and private social agencies and family organizations devoted to preventing child abuse or helping its victims, and there’s bound to be one of them not far from your neighborhood.
Sadly, they have a lot of work to do. They could use your help.