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Child sexual abuse has huge impact in Lamar

Society’s darkest secret ‘“ sexual abuse of children ‘“ is finding a voice in a program called Darkness to Light, bringing awareness training all over the state via the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. Krista Gonce, prevention regional coordinator for GCCA, told the Lamar County Family Connection Collaborative last week there is not only an emotional impact associated with child sexual abuse but an economic impact. Nationally, there is an estimated annual $3.4 billion in immediate costs such as court cases, treatment, exams and law enforcement hours. Long-term costs as victims go into adulthood ‘“ alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy or mental health problems ‘“ are researched at $35 billion. The average cost of each case is about $14,345. Besides murder, child sexual abuse is the most expensive crime in society. The damage to children is inestimable, she said. Lamar figures show the cost of such cases annually is $199,695, with a long-term impact of $2 million. GCCA is gathering information and providing regional directors to work toward introducing a prevention program in all 159 Georgia counties. Studies show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Sixty percent of all first pregnancies in teens are preceded by incidence of child sexual abuse. Of teen prostitutes, 95% have a history of sexual abuse as a child. Psychological problems and substance abuse occur in three times as many sex abuse victims as the same behaviors in the general population and male survivors are 70% more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. In 90% of cases, victims know or are related to their abusers. Gonce emphasized the GCCA program Stewards of Children concentrates on prevention by offering a training program to teach all adults how to recognize the signs of abuse and react responsibly as a means of protecting children. Stewards of Children is a three-hour $15-perperson training needed by anyone who works with or volunteers around children in any capacity, Gonce added. Bringing the information to a group like the collaborative is vital to involving as many adults as possible since many agencies who are members are already dealing with child abuse prevention as part of Georgia’s mandated reporter laws. Recent changes in the law now require everyone, regardless of how much time is spent with children in a paid or volunteer post, to have training needed to be a mandated reporter, Gonce said. ’It’s about protecting our children,’ she said. ‘Prevention is definitely the answer.’ Several persons at the meeting expressed interest in getting the Stewards of Children training started in Lamar County. Gonce’s opening presentation created an atmosphere of sadness, horror and respect for prevention efforts. It was a video of about 12 child sexual abuse survivors talking about their experiences and how hard it was for them ever to tell anybody, even as adults. The survivors included 1958 Miss America Marilyn van Derbur, a victim of incest from age 5 to her teens. Viewing the stories of the survivors, among the 39 million in the country, moved and frightened the group. One person, who is in a profession that might inure her to suffering, said later, ‘I was thinking during the video, okay, that’s enough. I can’t take anymore. I have to either throw up or leave.’ For information email Gonce at kristag@gacfca.orgor call 404-510-2402. To get involved locally, email LCFCC director Dorothy Carter at lamarcountyfcc@gmail.com or call 678-572-8286.

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