As we listen to the wide-spread media coverage of the unravelling reports of child sexual abuse at Penn State, many of us feel frustrated and angry, wondering "How did it go unreported for so long?"

Child sexual abuse is a crime that thrives in a climate of silence, secrecy, and shame. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthdays. Less than 10 percent of these children will ever tell anyone what happened to them. To break this silence, we must stay informed and know what to do to keep children safe.

If you witness a child being abused in any way, anywhere, at any time, call 911 immediately. If you suspect someone may be abusing a child, call the Connecticut Department of Children and Families hotline at 1-800-842-2288.

There are many reasons why adults may feel reluctant to get involved. They may be concerned they have misinterpreted a situation or worry about the consequences to an offender who is a family member, friend, or respected member of the community. In some situations, like the child who is abused, the adult who witnesses or suspects abuse, may be afraid of the offender or worry that they will not be believed. It may feel unsafe or difficult to intervene personally, but getting authorities involved immediately is crucial to preventing further abuse and to getting abused children the help they need. Remember, you don't have to intervene directly, you just have to call. Reports to DCF can be made anonymously, and there is no liability for good faith calls.

Most situations involving child sexual abuse are complicated, which is why the Child Sexual Abuse Response Team of Lower Fairfield County was founded 22 years ago. The team responds to reports of suspected child sexual abuse with a focus on assuring appropriate safeguards are taken to protect children who have been victimized and that false allegations are responded to expediently and appropriately.

Under the auspices of the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, the team integrates police and protective services investigations, while guidence center and The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education jointly assure comprehensive services are provided to resolve consequences of abuse. For more information about the Sexual Abuse Response Team and child sexual abuse please visit www.childguidancect.org.

Most child victims never report abuse. It is our job as adults to protect vulnerable children. We must work together to give victimized children a voice. Suspicious activity needs to be reported. If you see something, say something.

Ellie Hartog, coordinator

Child Sexual Abuse

Response Team of

Lower Fairfield County

Stamford