The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

December 26, 2011

Child center reaches out to abused

DANVILLE -- The Jerry Sandusky-Second Mile scandal has placed child abuse and its victims in the spotlight.

One of the most shocking figures, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, is that more than 90 percent of sexual abuse victims know their assailants. Other statistics show that one of six women and one in 33 men are victims of sexual assault at some point in their lives.

Commonly, the culprit is a nonbiologically-related adult living with the family, said Dr. Pat Bruno, medical director of Geisinger's Child Advocacy Center of the Central Susquehanna Valley.

The abusers might give the victims gifts or other signs of affection as a way of keeping them quiet, he said. The perpetrators will usually not try to physically harm the children because they are receiving sexual gratification from them.

Abusers can try to intimidate a child to keep quiet. A common threat is that if the child tells anyone, the family will split up.

"No matter how bad things are at home, it's their home," Bruno said. People "have to remember how difficult it is" for the kids, he said.

One of the most important things adults can do for young victims is to believe them when they say they have been hurt.

"It may be the one and only time the child discloses it," Bruno said.

"That initial disclosure and how it is received can impact greatly" the recovery of a child, said Dr. Nicole Quinlan, a pediatric psychologist with Geisinger.

Short-term effects can include difficulty sleeping, increased sadness or anxiety, trouble in school and withdrawing from friends. Long-term effects can be depression, eating disorders, poor self-esteem and changes in behavior.

"Sexual abuse is traumatizing, but it can also be confusion," Quinlan said.

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