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It's been more than 10 years, but I can still see her face.
Her name was Megan.
She was a gorgeous eight-year-old little girl who I met while working as a counselor at a summer program for emotionally and mentally disturbed children. I was a college student at the time and I needed a job for the summer, but meeting Megan and working at the summer program was an eye-opening experience for me. It introduced me to the ugly world of child abuse, something I had been very naive about until meeting Megan.
At first glance, Megan looked like your typical 8-year-old little girl. She was a very girly girl who loved jewelry and pretty clothes. Every morning that summer, I would pick up Megan at her grandmother's house and take her to the summer program. During our daily drive, she always loved to listen to my CDs of *NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys.
Her smile was contagious. And, while Megan seemed like a happy, healthy child, she had a troubled past.
Before beginning my work with the summer program, part of my prep work was to learn about the backgrounds of the children I would be working with and the different types of abuse they had experienced. Megan's story was almost too horrifying to believe. She had been sexually abused by one of her mother's boyfriends. I remember getting nauseous while reading Megan's file. I just couldn't believe someone could do such horrible things to a child. And, when I met her it added an entire new dimension for me because now this victim had a face. She had a precious face that I can still see today.
I often wonder what Megan is doing now. Is she ok? Was she able to overcome the abuse that she experienced as a young girl? According to statistics, many children who are abused end up having a very difficult life. Childhelp, the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect, reports that children who experience child abuse are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 percent more likely to commit violent crime. Childhelp also reports that 31 percent of women in prison in the United States were abused as children and more than 60 percent of people in drug rehabilitation centers report being abused or neglected as a child.
I sincerely hope Megan hasn't become another statistic.
In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, I urge all of you to educate yourselves on the epidemic of child abuse. It's hard to fathom, but statistics show that more than three million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States. In fact, every day approximately five children die as a result of child abuse - three out of four of those children being under the age of four.
Statewide, there were 47,280 reports of child abuse last year, according to Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, a statewide advocacy group. Statistics show that in Marion County, there were 187 reports of child abuse, involving 154 families and 237 children.
Those statistics are disturbing, but very telling in regards to how big of an epidemic child abuse is in this country, state and county. But, this is an epidemic we can help prevent.
If you suspect a child is being abused, call 1-877-KY SAFE1 (1-877-587-2331) to make a confidential report. To learn more about child abuse, please contact 1 (800) CHILDREN or your local DCBS office. In Marion County, the Protection and Permanency Office is located at 634 West Main Street in Lebanon, and can be reached by calling (270) 692-3135.