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Attorney General Sean Reyes on One With Courage:
We often limit the meaning of the word “courage” to the bravery of those on our front lines. Our soldiers, police officers, firefighters, and other agents are certainly courageous as they stand up and fight to keep us safe from harm.
But, in today’s world, we must expand our definition of “courage” to include the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger and fear. It is critical to consider those who push stigma and discomfort aside to talk about tough issues that are often left in the shadows. Courageous individuals make it possible for the most vulnerable among us to find protection from harm.
Child sexual abuse is a crime of silence that thrives because not only the perpetrator, but often times the victim, do not want to share their dark secrets. Sadly, many of these situations are based on trusted relationships and the threat of exposure ignites instinctive reflexes to preserve familiar surroundings, even when they are damaging and destructive.
The Attorney General’s Office houses and administers the Utah Children’s Justice Center (CJC) Program, dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective, efficient, and that minimize trauma for the child. Each of the 22 centers in Utah is a child-focused, facility-based program in which representatives from law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical services, and victim advocacy work together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse cases. In an average year, Utah’s CJCs conduct 4,500 interviews, handle 5,500 cases, and serve as many as 15,000 people.
Keeping families safe is a top priority in our office. In addition to our statewide CJCs, there are 36 Child Protection Division assistant attorneys general and the necessary staff to ensure safe living environments for children in every county throughout Utah. We work in tandem with our partners at DCFS and many of our attorneys work cases at all hours of the day and night to seek judicial protection for a child who is in imminent danger of abuse or neglect, while also respecting parental and family rights.
Our office also administers the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), a statewide multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the Internet to exploit children. ICAC includes 32 affiliate law enforcement agencies, 80 officers, and three full time prosecutors. In addition, our SECURE Strike Force investigates and prosecutes human trafficking threats that often times include children.
We are honored to team with our state’s Division of Child and Family Services to launch One With Courage Utah. This initiative asks each of us, no matter our situation, to have courage. Courage is necessary for a child victim to speak up. Courage is necessary for a survivor to remember and share a story. Courage is necessary for an adult to listen and act to help a child. Courage is necessary for every one of us to vigilantly build awareness and engage in an open dialogue about child sexual abuse.
Alarming statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18. Perpetrators often consist of family members, friends, and acquaintances. It is estimated that over 90 percent of child sexual assault victims know their perpetrators. And, most of these children do not disclose abuse until adulthood, if ever at all.
It is time for each of us to be One With Courage. You are invited to find out more about the unique role Children’s Justice Centers play in providing comprehensive, coordinated, and compassionate services to child victims of abuse. We welcome you to find out more about the Children’s Justice Center Program and our partnerships with counties throughout Utah. We are privileged to be part of the response that is designed to bring justice and healing to the children who come through our doors.
Most importantly, One With Courage Utah is a compilation of experiences by people living in Utah to inspire the courage required to take action against abuse. Action includes starting a dialogue about this issue, equipping ourselves with the facts, or volunteering at a local Children’s Justice Center.
Please take a minute to learn how to join the fight at onewithcourageutah.org.
I’m One With Courage. Are you?