FAIRBORN — When it comes to disclosing sexual abuse, Michael’s House director says survivors must come forward on their own terms.
“One in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday,” Teresa Wiles, who runs the child advocacy center in Fairborn, said. “About one in 10 kids come forward and tells us something is going on.”
This statement to the Gazette comes just days after a local farmer was arrested for sexually abusing a minor, and hours after a fifth victim disclosed to law enforcement.
But Wiles says these things happen every day.
“This is a pervasive issue. We have to take away the shame of people coming forward,” she said. “We champion them and at the same time understand the gravity of coming forward.”
The director said there are reasons why some victims don’t disclose.
“We know that there’s often a lot of self blame, shame, fear. They want to protect their family and loved ones,” Wiles said. “Also there’s disillusionment when something like this happens to a child — that the world is not a safe place. That’s all shattered.”
Wiles said survivors sometimes think they won’t be believed, particularly if the perpetrator is well-known or admired in their community.
Ultimately, she continued, coming forward must be a personal decision.
“Survivors who have not disclosed their abuse — they need to do that on their own terms,” Wiles said.
Wiles said victims who disclose, when they’re ready, are potentially able to regain their own power over a situation in which they once felt completely powerless.
“We also know that holding in that kind of trauma creates a lot of toxic stress that can be felt emotionally and physically, so they are able to get some relief in that,” she said.
Lastly, it gives survivors the opportunity to feel the support of other survivors and community members.
“People do care, they want to embrace victims as they should be,” Wiles said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing we want for survivors is healing and effective intervention if they want it and they need it.”
Children’s advocacy centers like Michael’s House and other community organizations can help. Contact Greene County Children Services at 937-562-6600; Michael’s House, 937-641-5670; Greene County Sheriff’s Office, 937-562-4800.