Child abuse. “Well, that’s something we hear about on the news, and happens everywhere else but not here in our quiet, rural county,” seems to the opinion of most people. Unfortunately, that train of thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Allow me to give a few statistics, that include Marion County.

A child abuse, or neglect case, is reported every 47 seconds nationally. More than three million children are the subjects of at least one child abuse each year. 1 in 10 (1 in 7 girls, 1 in 25 boys) children will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old. 90% of the perpetrators of these abuses are individuals the child knows. 1 in 5 children receive sexual solicitations and are approached online.  Of these, only 5% of homes have filtering or blocking software, which means most children have unrestricted access to anything they wish to view. If these statistics don’t alarm you, they should, because these numbers are consistent with our numbers here in the Sequatchie Valley.  

Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett said, “We have seen a dramatic increase in reported child abuse over the last ten years, and it is at an all-time high.”  Child abuse and neglect cases are handled by this department, working in conjunction with the Department of Children Services’ office.

“We average 5 to 6 new cases each week of physical, sexual and emotional abuse,” stated Burnett. The sad part is for every one case reported, there are at least two that go unreported.  Evidence that a child has been sexually abused is not always obvious, and many children do not report that they have been abused. Only around 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused. Of these, 40 % tell a close friend rather than an adult or authority figure, which does not always result in a formal report or investigation. Fabricated sexual abuse reports constitute only around 5% of all reported cases. Oftentimes those few fabricated reports stem from custody battles or adolescents.

You may be thinking at this point, ‘What happens to the children?’ Oftentimes, the end results are not good as victims of child abuse, whether physical or sexual, end up being perpetrators themselves later in life. National studies indicate that children who have been victims of abuse are ten times more likely to be involved in crime, substance abuse and some sadly suicide.

There is a positive in all this sadness however. There are many programs, services and organizations that specialize in helping victims of child abuse. With proper support, counseling and removal from the environment of abuse, many of these children thrive and live productive, happy lives. 

“It was once said, it takes a village to raise a child,” said Detective Gene Hargis.  “We as adults need to pick up the torch and help these children by reporting child abuse, helping organizations like the Children’s Advocacy Center who assists us in helping these children, or by fostering a child who has lived through traumatic experiences.”

We all have a responsibility to children who need help and can’t help themselves.  If you suspect a child is being abused, please call the Department of Children Services hotline at (877) 237-0026, or the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at (423) 942-2525.

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