It is an indescribable problem. No one is comfortable talking about child sexual abuse, and that in itself is another problem.
Kathy Andersen is trying to get people talking about the issue with an ad campaign that began Wednesday on Metrorail’s digital bulletin boards.
“I got reactions from people who saw the initial campaign and it was awesome, it’s strong and it’s shocking,” Anderson said.
Ads are provocative by design. They show children phrases such as “Mom, dad touches me”.
For Andersen, the campaign is personal.
“So I was sexually abused by my adoptive father from the age of three, that’s the youngest age I can remember,” Andersen said. “I was too scared to confront him, not only too scared but you’re traumatized like a child, you’re stuck in freeze mode.”
Countless children suffer in silence.
“What silences child sexual abuse is their isolation, young children cannot easily confront a father, uncle or family friend,” Andersen explained. “This campaign is about opening the door, opening the dialogue, having mothers, for example, be the heroes and see the signs more, hear things, see if a child’s behavior might suggest that something thing is wrong.”
Childhood sexual abuse can lead to lifelong mental health issues.
“I struggled with that, I think a lot of us look good on the outside, but on the inside there’s still work we have to do every day to keep living. normally,” Andersen said.
The importance of effort, she says, is illustrated by statistics. Andersen points out that about one in four children are sexually abused before the age of 18, and that 90% of abusers are family members or family friends.
“People don’t believe it because they think it’s so shocking, and I understand it’s a shocking issue that people don’t want to see, especially when it’s mostly in the family,” said Andersen said.
Andersen is funding the effort herself, through her nonprofit group End1in4.org. She’s spent $10,000 so far and you’ll soon be seeing those same ads on freeway billboards all over South Florida. They urge people to call 240-END-1IN4, and all calls are answered by the national Childhelp Child Abuse hotline.