Supporting Survivors: Counseling and Advocacy

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Addressing Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) and its aftermath is a multi-pronged effort. In recent blogs we discussed the work No More Stolen Childhoods does to support the prevention of abuse, but we remain cognizant of and deeply committed to the healing of adult survivors of CSA, as well.

Research shows that the average age of disclosure of CSA is 52 years old, and a further 25-33% of the abused never disclose. It is clear that many adults are not ready to seek support or formal healing until many years after their abuse, if ever. At NMSC, we believe that these adult survivors are best supported by therapy with trained providers who understand the impact of CSA. Our Counseling Grants Program facilitates the healing of these individuals, who have carried the weight of past abuse for years and more often decades. We are happy to say that in the first 10 months of 2020 we’ve been able to facilitate 181 counseling sessions for 14 individuals across 6 Maryland counties.

For adult survivors to access greater justice and healing more quickly, there must also be legislative reform, especially to statutes of limitations. These reforms a) allow us to identify previously unknown predators and prevent future abuse; b) shift the financial costs of abuse from victims and taxpayers to abusers and organizations that enabled them; and c) help educate the public about the prevalence and impact of CSA. It is clear that supporting survivors and preventing abuse from occurring in the first place are goals that naturally support each other.

In 2020, 30 states introduced bills for CSA statute of limitations reform. Here in Maryland, No More Stolen Childhoods is an active part of the coalition of organizations that support survivors in advancing the Hidden Predator Act, which would remove the civil statute of limitations and open a two-year window for survivors to bring forth cases that were previously outside of current time restrictions. In 2020 the bill unanimously passed the Maryland House of Representatives, but unfortunately due to COVID-19, the legislative session was interrupted. Undeterred, we look forward to supporting the passing of the Hidden Predator Act in 2021.

Childhood Sexual Abuse is a public health epidemic that directly effects victims’ lives and indirectly effects every facet of our society. By working together toward prevention, intervention, and healing, we can address the ongoing harm and deep injustices inflicted on children, families, and society.