Pilot Program To Tackle Sexual Abuse

November 7, 2005--Posted at 9:45 p.m. CDT

DONIPHAN, MO--One out of three girls and one out of four boys will be sexually abused before they turn eighteen. To combat these statistics Ripley County is testing a pilot program designed to help keep our kids safe. It's a troubling thought to think of a young child being sexually abused.

"Way Way to much sexual abuse in this area so this is just something else to help counteract that," said Lisa Williamson the Circuit Manager for Butler and Ripley Counties Children's Division.

Ripley County is hoping the program will cut down on the number of children who are sexually abused.

"It's aimed at getting adults that these children know to report suspicious activities that they might see when something doesn't look right about a child's behavior," said Diane Silman the Executive Director for the Ozark Foothills Child Advocacy Center.

The goal is to shift the pressure from reporting sexual abuse from the children to adults.

"We want to educate our adult population about how to create effective safety nets around our children," said Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Missouri Lucia Erikson Kinchelow.

The Enough Abuse campaign will establish a hotline for the victims of sexual abuse plus one for those who commit the crime. In addition to their will be a focus on public education. 
"We are implementing several multi focused training programs from three to five, middle school, and parents," said Kinchelow.

Part of the reason the state selected Ripley County was because of it's high occurrence rate of abuse in the area. To combat the problem the Enough Abuse campaign is raising awareness by having children and adults across the area lay a handprint on a tapestry. It's a sign that the community is behind the program.

"This is an opportunity to get people to have some hands on work that can really make a difference for children," said Silman.

Helping to prevent a problem that can have lasting effects on a child.

"A lot of these children might be perpetrators themselves, they often develop mental health problems, they become suicidal, they develop substance abuse problems that last a lifetime," said Silman.

It's a community problem that Ripley County hopes to tackle as a community.

"We have to let them know we can't do it ourselves that it takes everyone to let everyone be well informed and know what the support systems are," said Williamson.

Ripley County is one of 5 counties in the state of Missouri that is participating in the Enough Abuse pilot program.