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Athens Co Child Advocacy Center Speaks Out for VictimsFebruary 16, 2015
Recent events and media attention surrounding the prosecution of an area high-school teacher for sexually abusing a student have prompted a response from the staff at the Athens County Child Advocacy Center.
First, it is important to recognize that any type of sexual contact between an adult and child or teenager IS sexual abuse. This is compounded if the adult is in a position of power. In this situation children cannot consent to sexual contact even if they - as victims - feel that they are consenting to the relationship.
The term "compliant victim" is often an unrecognized term used to describe a person in a relationship with someone who holds some type of power over them. This could be financial, personal or professional but regardless, the victim is considered to be vulnerable in some way, often because of her/his age and/or the stature of the perpetrator.
However, compliant victims consider themselves to be engaged in a consensual relationship and do not consider themselves to be victims. Often, people who find themselves in this type of situation do not want the relationship to end or don't know how to escape, especially if they have been coerced in any way. This does not fit the characteristics of a traditional child sexual abuse case in the minds of many people and is difficult to understand, but the reality is that compliant victims need to be supported as survivors of sexual abuse and not be blamed.
Some ways we can support victims are by listening, believing, validating their feelings regardless of what they are - sadness, anger, fear, confusion etc. We need to assure the victim they didn't do anything wrong, respect their space and decisions, be trustworthy and responsible with information surrounding the assault, don't share with others unless the victim consents and stop gossip and rumors.
Most importantly, we as a small community need to have a collective responsibility for our children, which means not only supporting victims and survivors of sexual abuse but also starting meaningful dialogue about necessary education in this area and expansion of preventative services to ensure the future safety and well-being of our children.
We are very fortunate to have a plethora of human service organizations in our area that can be accessed by anyone, even just to ask questions or gain perspective from professionals in the field. Specific to sexual assault the Athens County Child Advocacy Center (ACCAC) coordinates services free of charge for child victims of sexual abuse by providing medical care, linkage to mental-health services, victim advocacy and long-term support to families to aid in healing and prevention of further incidences of sexual assault. We can also be a source of information for any concerns surrounding sexualized behaviors and reports.
Additionally, Athens County Children Services has trained forensic interviewers who can work in collaboration with the ACCAC to minimize trauma for children when allegations or disclosures of sexual abuse occur. If you suspect child abuse of any kind please call Athens County Children Services (740-592-3061). Anyone can make a report anonymously, and it is not your responsibility to decide if an allegation holds enough merit to be investigated. Please utilize these services any time; there is never a concern too small when a child is involved.
As we move forward, focus should not be on blame but invested in supporting victims and ensuring thoughtful conversations take place to increase knowledge and pursue implementation of educational and prevention services to ensure safety for all of the children in our community.
For more information about our organization or how to get involved please visit us on-line at athenscac.org, email email@example.com or call 740.566.4847.
Editor's note: The Athens County Child Advocacy Center staff who signed this letter include Rebecca Robison-Miller, director; Bryttani Barker, child and family advocate; Dr. Jane Broecker, medical director; and Audrey Carey, pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner.