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May 7, 2013 at 6:05 AM

Turn disturbing news into action to stop abuse against women and children

Domestic violence against women and children persists. We all need to do a better job of recognizing signs of abuse and intervening when necessary.

I’m saying this because I  felt a roller coaster of emotions Monday as several major stories broke nationwide.

The airman in charge of the U.S. Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested late Sunday for allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot in Arlington, VA. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, is reportedly on leave as he faces a sexual battery charge. This guy was appointed to his position two months ago. The police report describes disgusting behavior. Doesn’t matter that alcohol was involved. How the heck did he get the job in the first place?

We should brace ourselves for more disturbing developments. NBC News reports, “On Tuesday, the Pentagon will release its annual report on sexual assaults in the military, which shows an increase in reported assaults in fiscal year 2012 — up from 3,192 a year before. Furthermore, the number of people who made an anonymous claim that they were sexually assaulted but never reported the attack skyrocketed from 19,000 in FY11 to 26,000 in FY12.”

Washington is home to two Air Force bases. I’m going to check in with local officials to see if they’ve reported sexual abuse within their ranks. I encourage everyone to watch the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Invisible War.” This powerful film outlines an epidemic of sexual abuse that extends to every branch of the military. Awareness is key, but we have to demand more accountability from leaders, and that includes conducting fair and timely investigations.

In Ohio, authorities rescued three women who’d been missing for years. Arrests have been made, but this story highlights the need for neighbors to watch out for each other. A man named Charles Ramsey is being called a hero for responding to one of the victims’ screams. He’d long suspected suspicious behavior in the house where the women were found. On Monday, he finally took action.

These two awful stories aside, I saw a couple other hopeful signs in Monday’s news headlines.

A video explaining the groundbreaking ad campaign below went viral on social media. Depending on the height of the viewer, the sign offers two different messages. Taller adults merely see a photo of a child with a warning against abuse, while shorter kids see clear signs of abuse and information on how to seek help. I wonder how effective this message will be, but the innovation certainly deserves praise. Imagine how this kind of engagement could be utilized for other public health campaigns.

Washington state is a hotbed for human trafficking related to labor and the sex trade. We could draw a lesson or two from former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, who spoke last weekend on a panel at Johns Hopkins University. Smart revealed why she didn’t escape her captors during her nine-month ordeal.

Here’s an excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor’s report:

Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”

Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said.

After working in Texas, a state that teaches abstinence, I was relieved to find out Washington’s Healthy Youth Act requires sex education to be “comprehensive,” meaning students are also taught about contraceptives and disease prevention.

0 Comments | Topics: abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking

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