Illuminating Policy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Illuminating Policy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Policy plays a key role in the prevention of child sexual abuse by ensuring adequate funding and modernization of state statutes to protect kids, as well as promoting healing and preventing future harm when abuse has occurred. In addition to educating and empowering adults, Illuminate Colorado is working to ensure that every child grows up healthy and free from sexual abuse by collaborating through the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition and advocating during the 2021 Colorado legislative session on several bipartisan bills progressing at the state capitol related to child sexual abuse prevention. 

Just last week, Illuminate joined the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and many survivors in testifying in support of SB21-73 before the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Thankfully, the bill passed committee, as well as third reading on the Senate floor, unanimously.

SB21-73 Civil Action Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault eliminates the civil statute of limitations for sexual assault allows child and adult survivors time to heal so that they may access the civil legal system and monetary resources necessary to rebuild their lives after surviving sexual abuse. 

National experts estimate that approximately 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. (1)  Over the last five years, the number of children in Colorado experiencing sexual abuse has steadily risen with seven percent of the 286,534 allegations of child maltreatment involving concerns of sexual abuse. With support from professionals in the child welfare and child advocacy centers and law enforcement, as well as other trusted adults in a child’s life, 27 percent of these concerns of child sexual abuse were confirmed. (2) However, almost 73 percent of child victims don’t disclose to anyone for at least a year, 45 percent don’t tell anyone for almost five years and, sadly, many never disclose at all. (3)

The resources included with this bill were needed before the COVID-19 pandemic to support survivors of child sexual abuse thriving in adulthood given that adult survivors of child sexual abuse are nearly three times as likely to report substance misuse, and are also more likely to be impacted by mental health issues. (4) They are especially needed now given the social isolation and increased stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that everyone has experienced.

Review the 2021 Policy Agenda

Download the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda with key highlighting specific protective factors each policy builds in Colorado.

Use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of SB21-73 and other bills this session related to child sexual abuse prevention including:

SB21-017 Sexual Contact By An Educator which specifically addresses the abuse of public trust by an educator, and enforces that sexual relationships between a student and a teacher or coach are inappropriate, even once a student turns eighteen years old.

HB21-1069 Enforcement Of Sexual Exploitation Of A Child modernizing criminal statute regarding child sexual exploitation to reflect access and viewing due to evolving technology, including accounting for livestreaming platforms.

Register today for the 10th annual Speak Up for Kids Day (not) at the Capitol!

Illuminate encourages everyone to participate in Colorado’s Annual Speak up for Kids Day on Thursday, March 18, 2021 from 8:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m.

It is essential for elected officials and policy makers to understand how to prevent child maltreatment and listen to parents in every community.

This year’s event will be hosted virtually, yet still filled with tips and training on advocacy and lobbying skills, strategizing and role-playing for talking to lawmakers, opportunities to hear about key issues for kids and families, and more. Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Children’s Campaign and Clayton Early Learning are hosting the event.

Register at www.bit.ly/2021speakup and email advocacy@childrenscolorado.org with any questions.

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Citations

1) Townsend, C. & Rheingold, A.A. (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: A review of child sexual abuse prevalence studies. Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light. Retrieved from www.D2L.org.

2) Colorado Department of Human Services, Types of Allegations of Maltreatment Report Time Period: January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2019. (2020). Retrieved from CDHSDataMatters.org https://rom.socwel.ku.edu/CO_Public/Login.aspx?H=7061.

3) Joshua J. Broman-Fulks, Kenneth J. Ruggiero, Rochelle F. Hanson, Daniel W. Smith, Heidi S. Resnick, Dean G. Kilpatrick & Benjamin E. Saunders (2007) Sexual Assault Disclosure in Relation to Adolescent Mental Health: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 36:2, 260-266, DOI: 10.1080/15374410701279701

4) CASA Columbia, “Family Matters”, 2005 Knight, Menard, & Simmons, 2014.

Yoga and Post-Traumatic Growth

Yoga and Post-Traumatic Growth

Over the last five years, the number of children in Colorado experiencing sexual abuse has steadily risen. Seven percent of the 286,534 allegations of child maltreatment in Colorado over the last five years involved concerns of sexual abuse; 28 percent of those concerns involved male children and 72 percent female children. However, it is also believed that child sexual abuse is significantly under-reported. National experts estimate that one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and 90 percent of children who experience sexual abuse know their abuser.

The Consequences 

The long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse are numerous, ranging from poor self-image to increased risk of mental health issues and suicide. Because sexual abuse is an extreme violation of an individual’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and familial integrity, it contributes to many conditions that confront adult survivors, including homelessness, addiction, obesity, chronic illness and depression.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reported to be five times more likely in survivors of childhood sexual abuse compared to the general population. Children who have been sexually abused exhibit more posttraumatic fear, anxiety, and concentration problems than do their non-abused peers.

Healing Through Yoga

Dr. John Hopper at Harvard Medical School reports that the key for promoting healing for childhood sexual abuse is:

  • Establishing safety and stability in one’s body, one’s relationships, and the rest of one’s life.
  • Tapping into and developing one’s own inner strengths, and any other potentially available resources for healing.
  •  Learning how to regulate one’s emotions and manage symptoms that cause suffering or make one feel unsafe.
  • Developing and strengthening skills for managing painful and unwanted experiences, and minimizing unhelpful responses to them.

Those familiar with Yoga practices and philosophy will immediately recognize that Yoga is an ideal opportunity to initiate, build, and integrate mindfulness and body-focused practices to address symptoms of childhood sexual abuse.

Trauma-Informed Yoga is a natural environment to create a safe space for healing. Yoga promotes the learning of “interoceptive awareness,” a fancy way of saying awareness of feelings and sensations in the body.  Often times, survivors have turned away from feelings and sensations as a way of survival.  Yoga can teach survivors how to “befriend” the body and to get to know the associated sensations and feelings, which helps them to make conscious changes and have more choice and control over their own lives.  Yoga also incorporates relaxation techniques, coping skills and empowering philosophy which can also aid in the development of post traumatic growth.

For more information on how yoga can be used to build brighter childhoods and the different ways that you can get involved, visit Bloom Yoga’s webpage.

 

Alongside Healing Comes Prevention

It’s not all just about healing. It’s important to also focus on the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. The Tipping Point Initiative encourages all Coloradans to take the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children® training, the only evidence-informed, adult-focused child sexual abuse prevention program in the United States proven to increase knowledge and change behavior. Adults learn how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse and feel empowered to spread their knowledge within the community. Visit the website to learn more.

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