Victims of sexual abuse fight to end silence
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - One in ten Mid-South children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. Sadly, those are just the ones who are brave enough to report it.
However, there is hope out there. One Mid-South woman's survival story may help empower others.
"I was 12 years old, and I knew something wasn't right and it didn't feel right," Volandrea Grey said.
Grey said she was sexually abused by a trusted adult from the age of 6 to 12.
"A lot of times kids keep it to themselves and for so long. I did after I told my aunt, because she did nothing. No one did anything."
Grey is now the director of "Never Too Late to Tell," an organization aimed at helping Mid-South children and teens who speak up.
"A lot of times people will not believe you, but it's for you," Grey said. "It's for you to be free. It's for you to live a life of purpose, and you have to give them back all the shame all the guilt. It doesn't belong to you."
The Memphis Child Advocacy Center sees some of the worst cases of sexual abuse.
"Here in Shelby County, it looks a lot more bleak for kids," Virginia Stallworth said.
Stallworth is the executive director for the Child Advocacy Center. The CAC offers sexual abuse prevention training called Stewards for Children. Sessions teach parents how to talk to children about abuse, recognize and respond to the signs, and push for better policy.
"Frequently those parents tell us, 'You know, now that I look back on it, I should have recognized it,'" Stallworth said.
Indications that a child is being sexually abused include:
- Reluctance to go to a particular place with a specific person
- An abrupt change in personality
- Increased anxiety, irritability, depression, aggression, and anger
Research shows that children who are more vulnerable to sexual abuse tend to be those children who are loners, are neglected, or lacking some sort of affection from a parent or guardian.
While there are children at a greater risk for sexual abuse, experts said all children are vulnerable to some degree.
"I think it's very important that we don't label this as a problem of only certain populations, because we know that child sexual abuse happens in every corner of our community," Stallworth said.
The Shelby County Rape Crisis Center offers counseling for sex abuse victims age 17 and older. Rape kits can be performed on victims as young as 13 years old.
"You don't have to know definitively that abuse is happening," Stallworth said. "A reasonable suspicion that a child is at risk, that a child is being hurt, is all you need to make that call to the Department of Children's Services or to your local law enforcement to report suspicions of abuse."
Over 14,000 adults in Shelby County have completed the Memphis Child Advocacy Center's Stewards of Children training over the past three years. The CAC is currently enrolling for upcoming classes.
"If we listen to our children, if we make sure their voices are heard, a lot of this would end, because we are letting the predators know that we are here," Grey said.
For more information on enrollment for the Stewards of Children training, click here.
For information on how to report abuse, click here.
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