Sexual abuse

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Physical, emotional or sexual abuse of any kind is wrong. To think about a child being abused is especially horrific.

Friday night a jury in Pennsylvania delivered a guilty verdict to former Penn State University defensive coach Jerry Sandusky. Convicted on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse, Sandusky, 68, will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Justice was served. Hopefully these men will experience some closure from the verdict. While healing can take place, we understand you do not immediately "get over" these abuses.

Michael Reagan, son of the late president, spoke at Southeast Missouri State University several years ago in part about being sexually abused by a camp counselor. New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey wrote a book released earlier this year in which he described being sexually abused by a female baby sitter and later a teenage boy. Both were affected by the incidents beyond the initial abuse. However, both serve as an example of how victims can address the emotional pain of the violation.

In time and with the support of pastors, family members, friends and counselors, we pray this same healing process will take place for those abused by Sandusky.

There's a second important point to be made in the aftermath of the Sandusky trial. The victims had the courage to stand up and say something. There's no telling how many incidents of sexual abuse this has prevented. The same can be said for others in similar circumstances.

It's important for victims to feel they can trust certain organizations to report abuse. Having a trusted individual to confide can prevent needless pain and suffering for others and start the healing process for the abused individual.

Tammy Gwaltney, president and CEO of Beacon Health Center, formerly the Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, said that one in four children before the age of 18 are sexually abused. One thing she hopes others learn from the Sandusky case is that people, whether mandated by their occupation or not, need to report suspected abuses to the official authorities. Official authorities include law enforcement and the Missouri Children's Division. The state hotline to report suspected abuse is 1-800-392-3738.

Finally, thank you to quality organizations that provide a safe place for children. These groups are important as far too many children come from unhealthy home structures -- though sexual abuse can happen to anyone.

To those who selflessly give of their time to positively affect a child's life, thank you. And to the victims of sexual abuse, we pray for your healing and admire you for your courage to come forward.

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