Jennifer Bray

Children who experience child abuse are nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. Children who have been abused are 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy.

And of those people in substance abuse treatment, two-thirds report being abused as children. The financial cost of child abuse in the U.S. is estimated at $585 billion.

When I read those statistics, it got me thinking about the abused children that I’ve met over the past five years of prosecuting child abuse cases in Marshall County. It got me wondering, did they make it despite their circumstances

Marshall County indicted 48 cases of child abuse in 2018. It seems that every month there are a handful of new victims to think about, to wonder about.

Have you ever spoken to a child that just seemed special? I have. And she’s also a child who was sexually abused by a close family friend. When I met TB, she was only five years old. Before meeting her, I read about her detailed disclosure of sexual abuse by someone she loved, she trusted. I had never seen a five year old explain the details of sexual abuse so clearly, yet still age appropriate. I have also never seen a five year old who was so outgoing and smart.

I have never seen a little girl get on the witness stand so bravely. TB so honestly and painfully told her story that there were tears coming from all directions in the courtroom. I was so proud of her.

Her testimony convicted her abuser, Christopher Elkins, of sexual abuse, and he was sentenced to serve the maximum 20 years in prison. When talking to TB about her abuse, I would think to myself “she’s going to be all right.”

I say all of that about TB to say that I am hopeful she will not become one of those statistics. It seems that if someone like her can’t make it through, I don’t know who could. I think about TB and all the other children I’ve worked with often – hoping they did not or will not become a statistic.

What can you do to help abused children? You can support the Child Advocacy Center of Marshall County. The women at the CAC are helping children cope with their abuse through therapy every day, at no cost to their families.

If you have time or resources, contact the CAC to see how you can help volunteer or donate. I ask that you get involved as a participant or volunteer with the CAC Superhero 5k and 1 Mile Fun Run being held on May 18th in Guntersville.

Without the CAC and the wonderful women who work there, the abused children in Marshall County would not get the help they deserve. Most importantly, since April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, I ask that you use that month to educate yourself on what to do if a child ever discloses abuse to you. The chances are this will happen at some point in your life, and it is imperative that as a trusted adult, you do the right thing.

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