One in five children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Nearly three quarters of them won’t speak about it for at least a year, and almost half of them won’t speak about it for at least five. Some of them never speak. These silent scars can lead to long term effects such as depression, PTSD, sleep and eating disorders, along with many other issues.
We Are SAFE’s founder, Catherine Goodwillie, is intimately familiar with these statistics – she and her brother Jeff are among the 42 million adult survivors living in the US today. Through We Are Safe, she has dedicated her life to the prevention and intervention of child sexual abuse (CSA). By reducing stigma, and educating both children and adults, she aims to lower the walls of secrecy and silence that prevent so many victims from seeking help and moving towards recovery.
Executive director Renee DeVesty can also speak about the personal toll abuse can take – she has made it her mission to raise awareness of the possibility of hope and healing for people coping with similar trauma. As a lecturer for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), she has spoken openly about her journey as a sexual abuse and domestic violence survivor. Her story of silence, and how she suffered for more than 20 years from alcohol and substance issues, as well as an eating disorder and abusive relationships as a result of that silence, illustrates very clearly the need for SAFE and its programs.
Open, active conversation about the risk factors for CSA, as well as education and empowerment of both children and adults within our communities can help to prevent future generations of children from knowing the pain and isolation common among today’s survivors. By partnering with Stewards Of Children, an evidence-informed CSA prevention training, SAFE is working in communities throughout Colorado to change attitudes and behaviors towards CSA.
At SAFE, they’ve been there. They have survived. But for those who haven’t experienced CSA or related trauma, they want to keep it that way. They want to make sure we talk about abuse, all of us, so that we can prevent it from happening.