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Another View -- Douglas Dean: We can't expect child victims of abuse to keep rescuing themselves

February 12. 2018 6:17PM

JUST WEEKS AGO, a 17-year-old found the courage to escape out a window to get help for her 12 siblings, aged 2 to 29. Police responding found them all to be neglected, underdeveloped due to malnourishment and living in squalor. Many were even chained down to prevent them from escaping. They all lived with their parents in a modest southern California tract home community where they operated a registered homeschool.

When the media showed up and began asking questions, it became clear that many neighbors had noticed reasons for concern, but decided to mind their own business.

So far, 140 women have accused former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor Larry Nasser of serial sexual abuse. At his sentencing hearing, victims were finally heard publicly. We learned that many reported the abuse to their parents, coaches, trainers, even police, only to be brushed off and ignored time and again. This is especially scary when you recognize that among them were Olympic medal winners who could easily gain media attention, yet none of them could convince those closest to them to heed their call for help.

We have an alarming public health crisis on our hands. When child victims of abuse are ignored, it highlights their painful truth and ours.

Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) were created almost 40 years ago, to advocate for and serve child victims of abuse on their path to finding justice, healing and hope. We are fortunate that the Granite State Children’s Alliance, New Hampshire’s network of Child Advocacy Centers, operates in each of our counties, serving to protect and advocate for all of our children.

Elliot Health System strives to do our part by providing the resources to operate a CAC on the campus of Elliot Hospital in Manchester, an evolving and innovative model, where health care providers team up with child advocates to provide the best of care to the most vulnerable in our communities, in their time of crisis.

The sad truth, however, is that we can only help the children we can reach, which is why I am asking for your attention today.

I am asking you to know and tell (learn more at Know the signs of child abuse and tell authorities when you recognize a child may be in need of help. As an adult resident of New Hampshire, you are obligated by law to report child abuse when you suspect it. As a human being, I ask that you find it within yourself to do the right thing.

The right thing is report suspected abuse. Do your part and let the authorities do theirs. You can even do so anonymously. Call DCYF (Division of Children, Youth and Families) at (800) 894-5533 if you suspect child abuse or neglect.

You may remain anonymous, but standing up and raising your voice on behalf of a child in need may be the only means of rescue they will have.

Douglas Dean is CEO of Elliot Health System, committee member of National Children's Alliance, America's network of Child Advocacy Centers

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