#MeToo: A local look at the nation’s sexual assault problem
During the summer of 2016, a young woman from Daniel Island attended a party in Daniel Island Park where there was underage drinking taking place. Things would later get out of hand, the woman recently told police, when a male at the party allegedly forced her to have sexual relations with him.
The victim did not notify law enforcement about the incident until early October, and the case remains under investigation. But it is one of a growing number of reports filing into police logs all across the country in conjunction with the start of the national campaign, “#MeToo.”
The hashtag, “MeToo” first began spreading across social media platforms in October 2017 by victims of sexual abuse in hopes of bringing awareness to how often assaults actually take place. With the coining of “#MeToo,” a platform was created for victims to safely disclose what had happened, in any amount of detail, while at the same time drawing attention to sexual misconduct and violence.
While the number of those to disclose assault using the hashtag was shocking to many, statistics confirm that sexual abuse is a prevalent problem, both nationally and locally.
National data provided by the Charleston-based Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center reveals that as many as one out of four girls and one out of six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. Daniel Island is no different, explained Carole Swiecicki, Dee Norton’s executive director.
“Based on consistent national statistics of the annual rate of sexual abuse and assault, approximately 70 children are sexually abused or assaulted on Daniel Island every year based on 29492 zip code,” she said.
According to Swiecicki, the “#MeToo” movement actually began several years ago by Tarana Burke, who was a camp counselor at the time.
“A child had disclosed to her that she was being sexually abused at home and the camp counselor wasn’t able to respond because she had also been abused,” said Swiecicki. “She said later that she wanted to say, ‘me too,’ but couldn’t in the moment. When she became an adult, she started the hashtag to hopefully raise awareness that it happens to a lot of people.”
The creation of this platform has, at the very least, successfully proven to American citizens that sexual assault is happening and occurs more often than one would think. Data actually shows that many victims do not disclose until they are adults and some never do, explained Swiecicki.
“It’s important to know that only between 25 and 50 percent of children actually tell anybody while they’re still children,” she said. “But a lot of kids still don’t tell…Actually one in every four victims doesn’t tell anybody unless they’re in a research study and somebody asks them during the study. For some people, that’s 50 years after the abuse.”
If someone does disclose to you that they have been abused, it is vital to stay calm and reach out to professionals, continued Swiecicki.
“It’s really important, if they trust you enough to tell you, that you stay calm and say, ‘Thank you for telling me about this,’” she said. “You don’t have to be in the role of knowing exactly what to say. Just be supportive and tell them that you will get them the help they need…Call law enforcement, [Dee Norton] or the Department of Social Services, depending on who was involved with the incident. We can help walk them through what the next steps are.”
If in need of immediate assistance or consultation, please contact the center at (843) 723-3600. The phone is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For additional information, visit www.deenortoncenter.org.
Help prevent sexual abuse
See eight tips below provided by the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center to help protect children from sexual abuse:
- Teach children accurate names of private body parts.
- Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.” Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.
- Teach children about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.
- Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g., politely refusing hugs) and to say no to touching others.
- Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts (e.g., bathing or going to the bathroom).
- Teach children to take care of their own private parts (i.e., bathing, wiping after bathroom use) so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children for help.
- Educate children about the difference between okay secrets (like surprise parties—which are okay because they are not kept secret for long) and not okay secrets (such as those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, especially from trusted adults).
- Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’t do it. If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.