COMMENTARY We must start believing victims of child abuse

COMMENTARY We must start believing victims of child abuse

Observer Reporter, December 3, 2017

“Who did you tell?”

“What did they do after you told them?”

These are questions I ask almost every child that I interview. The answers are important; they tell me not just who the child trusts, but also about that child’s history, including what their life as a survivor of childhood sex abuse has been like. I am a child abuse pediatrician, specializing in the care of children with concerns for neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. The majority of my work is in sexual abuse, and I am often called to court to explain not only physical exam findings, but the process of disclosure. Most commonly, I explain why children wait to tell.

Recent events, ranging from the women-focused “#metoo” movement to outcries of repeated sexual abuse by powerful men in government and Hollywood, have made sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, and disclosure part of the national conversation. Statistically, children wait an average of two years before beginning the disclosure process, if they ever report it at all. No one who regularly works with victims of abuse is surprised to see . . . 

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