For a child, telling someone that he or she has been abused, especially sexually abused, can be one of the hardest, scariest moments in life. That is why many children keep the abuse they have suffered a secret; not telling anyone what happened. Some keep the secret until adulthood. Some keep it forever. At CALICO we often hear children say they didn’t know what words to use to tell someone. Knowing this, CALICO believes that we should give children every tool possible to make it easier it to disclose abuse.
Therefore, in March, CALICO’s State Coordinator of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of California, Erin Harper, stood in the California State Capital to testify on behalf of SB 1178, a bill that would let abused children know where they can call for help. Joined by Mark Klaas, from the Polly Klaas Foundation, she spoke in support of a bill that would require a poster with information about how to report child abuse be created for schools to display in common areas. Erin passionately told the Senate’s Committee on Education how often child abuse goes unnoticed and un-reported.
“I have personally conducted over 600 forensic interviews of abused children for law enforcement and CPS. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have had a child tell me they told a friend, or even multiple friends, about their abuse months or years before it was finally reported… I can also not tell you how often I have asked a child why they did not tell an adult about the abuse sooner only to be told, ‘I didn’t know who to tell.’ Or. ‘I didn’t know who would care.’ “
These posters can empower children to report their own abuse, know what to do if they are told that a friend is being abused, and reinforce the idea that school is a safe place.
The bill unanimously passed the Committee and then the entire Senate. It is expected to pass the Assembly in June and then on to the Governor’s desk.
If you would like to express your support for these posters, please contact your local Assemblyperson and/or Governor Brown’s office and urge the passage of SB 1178. CALICO and its Children’s Advocacy Centers of California program is proud to be able to advocate on behalf of the safety and well-being of children across the state. We will keep you posted on the progress of SB 1178!
*As always, though, it is important to keep in mind that adults play the most important role in protecting children against abuse. Click here to read about what you can do if a child discloses to you.