A local advocate says 2018 can be seen as the "year of reckoning" in the field of child sexual abuse.
Deb Rosen, executive director of Bivona Child Advocacy Center, says the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report of a systemic cover up of abuse of minors by priests for decades, and other reports of widespread victimization, highlight the scope of the problem.
Bivona recently relaunched the website BeBraveForKids.org. The site was created through a partnership with Causewave Community Partners in 2014. It provides information to educate and mobilize adults to take action if they suspect a child has been sexually abused.
"Of course, people are going to be concerned about making what turns out to be a false or an erroneous report,” Rosen said. “But let's keep in mind that law and policy only requires a reasonable suspicion. Better to err on the side of being mistaken that something is happening than to err on the side that something is not happening."
Rosen says Bivona is being more purposeful in its partnerships with local schools to educate those who work with children about the prevalence and impact of child sexual abuse.
The child advocacy center is asking adults who work with children to be aware of relationships between their adult peers and the children around them.
"And if an adult were observing another adult to be taking sort of extreme measures to get one-on-one access to a child, or to be developing a relationship that seems to be truly outside of the typical and accepted pattern of professional conduct, that's something that ought to raise a concern, " said Rosen.
In 2017, Bivona Child Advocacy Center evaluated more than 2,000 children for abuse. There were concerns of sexual abuse in 75 percent of those cases. Child sexual abuse occurs across socioeconomic groups and in urban, suburban, and rural communities, but a survey showed only 15 percent of area residents believe abuse happens in neighborhoods like their own.
Click on the LISTEN link above to hear Deb Rosen talk about the latest efforts to prevent child abuse and her reaction to the Pennsylvania clergy sex abuse report.