Child sexual abuse is not a comfortable topic for the dinner table. We shy away from it because of its complexities and the horrors of sexual abuse.
However, our silence only makes the systemic and systemwide failures in addressing the problem even worse. Significant progress will require vision, leadership, communication, cooperation and coordination.
Under the leadership of Bob Castellani, the Silent Tears program was forged last year with the mission of giving “a voice to every child sexually abused.” An array of private-public partnerships and the world-renowned expertise of Victor Veith, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center, provided the foundation for a statewide task force. This task force includes law enforcement officials, prosecutors, child protection service facilitators, health care providers and civic, community, judicial and religious leaders.
As our state’s chief prosecutor, I am committed to protecting South Carolina’s children and giving them a voice. Last month, my office helped host the annual Children’s Advocacy Day at the Statehouse and stood with legislators to discuss the need for greater protections for our most vulnerable children — those who are victims of abuse and neglect.
Over the past year, the Silent Tears initiative conducted the nation’s first child sexual abuse statewide needs assessment. This process included talking with key stakeholders and identifying representative counties, conducting face-to-face interviews with more than 200 child protection professionals across South Carolina, and distributing a statewide survey to more than 400 professionals.
The report’s findings will be comprehensive, including reforms to undergraduate and graduate programs, frontline professionals, court systems, forensic professionals, prevention programs, the faith-based community and more.
Clearly, Silent Tears is a “best practices” model that should be replicated across the United States.
I look forward to joining U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Congressman Trey Gowdy, state Rep. Bruce Bannister, Victor Veith and the Castellani family at 11 a.m. next Tuesday for the release of the Silent Tears’ official report and presentation of its findings and recommendations. This will showcase how government can work with the private sector to give our children a voice.
The Silent Tears study provides South Carolina with an opportunity to be a leader in eradicating child abuse. This is an issue that has no boundaries or lines. It affects all South Carolinians regardless of race, creed, religion, ideology or means.
Therefore, we must all come together to engage policymakers, community leaders, child care professionals and parents throughout our state.
Our children are South Carolina’s most vital resource and our future. We all share in the problem of child abuse, so we must all share in the solution. I hope you will find the time to become involved in the Silent Tears initiative and take part in protecting the future of our state. Join us as we work together to end child sexual abuse.
Alan Wilson is the attorney general of South Carolina.