Hiding in Plain Sight: Reporting child sexual abuse

Those who advocate for child sexual abuse survivors say, it’s a crime that’s hard to report and seeking justice isn’t always that easy.

Year after year, sexual assault continues to be one of the most under-reported crimes..
If you ask any expert or police officer, they’ll tell you that those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
In fact they just tell a fraction of it.

On average in Michigan, more than 240 suspected child abuse and neglect complaints are investigated daily
In 2016, there were more than 25,000 confirmed cases of abuse and neglect. 39% of those abused were under the age of 4.

However, when looking at numbers across the United States, 68% of child crimes are never reported to police.
That means, thousands of children could have been abused and we won’t ever know.

Speaking out is embarrassing for a kid, but sometimes they also scared of the person abusing them.
Dr. Mary Pulido says, when kids come forward to share their abuse it requires not only bravery and strength, but also a deep trust for the person they decide to tell. That’s not necessarily easy.

So when a child does come forward, they should always be believed.

From there, it’s up to that person to report the abuse to police.

That’s where small talk, a child advocacy center in Ingham County, comes into the picture/

It’s a place where kids who are at the center of child abuse investigations can share their stories. and can do so comfortably.

Alex Brace is the non-profit organization’s executive director. He says Small Talk allows for a non-bias fact finding interview to see what is happening to a child.

According to Brace, the interview is different than your typical criminal investigation because the young victim is interviewed just once.

The reason for that is so that the child isn’t re-traumatized. Brace explains that only the necessary people are there for the interview.

One of the people in the room is detective Annie Harrison from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office.

When conducts the interviews, Harrison makes sure it’s open-ended, so the child can share their stories in their own words.

For those who think a child could “make up” a story of sexual abuse, both Harrison and Brace agree that it’s highly unlikely.

After a child visits small talk, they are offered free counseling services. Being with the child from when they first disclosure and all the way through the prosecution process can make a world of difference.

Small Talk Executive Producer Alex Brace has found that it boosts their confidence and Small Talk provides one of the best approaches to these sensitive cases.

Detective Annie Harrison wants parents to know that in many cases, children share the story of their abuse with another child. Harrison believes it’s important for children to know how to receive a disclosure and understand they aren’t “tattling” or violating the trust of a friend.

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