Guest op-ed: Join the fight for zero
We live in challenging times. Faced with a global crisis, we continue to experience the pandemic’s impacts on our communities, our economy and our way of life. Each of us has been affected in one form or another, some through financial strain and others through illness, loss and loneliness. And no one has felt loneliness more than our children.
We are seeing reports of an increase in cases of sexual abuse during the pandemic, leading to an overwhelming urgency to protect children who are isolated in places where they are frightened and unsafe. One in five children in the United States is sexually abused before they turn 18. This issue extends to Utah, where many children and teens have experienced, or continue to experience, sexual abuse. Educating ourselves is the first step to preventing — and ultimately eradicating — this epidemic.
Did you know 80% of children who are abused know their abuser? Or that children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between ages 7 and 13? Did you know children with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse? Learning these risk factors and talking about them with our children is one of the most important things we can do to protect our children.
April is National Child Abuse Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If ever there was a month to talk about this uncomfortable topic, it’s this month. The Younique Foundation is committed to eradicating child sexual abuse and its impacts, and we deliver services every day to help. However, this is not just a Younique Foundation cause. This is a global necessity.
The effects of child sexual abuse last into adulthood and long after the trauma has stopped. Most survivors don’t talk about the abuse until adulthood. As they carry this weight throughout their lives, many experience a variety of trauma symptoms that can lead to devastating challenges. It’s not a coincidence that they experience mental or health challenges, are more prone to attempt suicide, and have an increased risk of substance and alcohol abuse.
Three times a month, our foundation offers a four-day retreat in the mountains of Utah County to assist survivors on their healing journey. We consider it a privilege to help so many begin their healing journey. Due to the generosity of donors, survivors attend The Haven Retreat free of charge. Because of the high demand we have had in Utah and the number of participants who have come from all over the world to access our services, we opened a second office and retreat in Georgia.
The curriculum taught at our retreats is research-based and has been lauded for its effectiveness by graduate researchers from the University of Michigan and Brigham Young University. We know these retreats are working and changing lives. I have been to more than 100 retreats to personally meet these courageous survivors. Research indicates that after attending a retreat, participants experienced, on average, an increase of 45% in life satisfaction and a reduction of 37% in post-traumatic stress. If you are a survivor, we invite you to apply today to attend our free retreat at youniquefoundation.org.
Child sexual abuse is an issue so daunting that it can be overwhelming to know what we can do or where to start. We have the choice to help or look away. It requires courage to engage the suffering of others and provide relief where we can. Sometimes we feel helpless — that what we can do won’t matter, but it does. One of the most important thing parents and caretakers can do this month is to have candid discussions with their children and teens. If you need age-appropriate resources to start these prevention conversations, we invite you to visit defendinnocence.org.
We need you to join the fight against child sexual abuse and to help us bring the one-in-five statistic to zero. We need your resources. We need your voice. We need you to become involved!