When Little Jacob’s body washed up on our beach it became a stark reminder of something none of us want to know about. We just hope and pray we will never know the reality of it too close to home and don’t want to talk about it. Yet, in the shadow it grows, rearing its horrific head.

Silence has become its unwilling ally and gives it power. A community cries out into that darkness: Who could do such a monstrous thing? How did no one notice him, malnourished and abused? Where are the parents and the family? Only silence answers.

That silence echoes throughout our country. Let’s talk numbers, cold numbers that represent real children around us. In the United States, four to five children die every day due to abuse and neglect. Yes, over 1,500 children per year in the United States alone. Children 3 and younger are most vulnerable because of their small size, dependency on adults and their inability to defend themselves.

One in every 10 children will be a victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18, with the average age starting between 6 to 8 years old. Think about that. All around us, in our places of worship, our grocery stores and classrooms, at the local park and in our own neighborhoods. Children we know and may love — and it’s not as far from us as we may think.

The Advocacy Center for Children of Galveston County provides the child victim a chance to be heard and silence to lose its power. Interviewers are trained to ask non-leading questions, using the child’s words so trauma is reduced when telling their story. This is recorded and may be viewed by professionals in child protection, the criminal justice system and medical treatment to reduce further trauma from repeated interviewing.

We provide a safe, child-friendly environment, operating as an unbiased facility where CPS, the district attorney’s office, medical professionals and everyone who is on the child’s investigative or protective team can collaborate to try and achieve a successful outcome for that child.

Short-term trauma-based therapy is offered on location so that children can learn to deal with the trauma and turn these events of crisis into an opportunity for healing and hope. Connection with services and help with paperwork for families is provided. Our child safety program is actively working with members of child-serving organizations to develop best practices for recognizing and reporting abuse and empowering children to know that they deserve to be safe, how to identify trusted adults and to speak up against the silence that will not win!

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for the successful identification and location of the family members caring for ”Little Jacob” at the time of his disappearance. If you have any information, call 800-CALL-FBI. If you know or suspect a child is being abused, report it to 800-252-5400.

Candy Hattingh is the community education coordinator for The Advocacy Center for Children in Galveston County and can be reached at candy@galvestoncac.org.

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