It sure seems strange writing 2013. How many times have you done it wrong so far? It’s also been hard for me to know what the heck day it is. It’s seemed like Saturday all week! Well anyway, everything gets back to normal this week.
We begin session on Wednesday when we will be sworn in and the formal election of House officers occurs. It will also, hopefully, be when we receive our committee assignments for the next two years. I’ve asked for Workforce Development and Workplace Safety, Professional Registration, Transportation, Utilities, and Economic Development. If I am successful in getting assigned to these committees, I will certainly be busy enough. That’s OK by me, I like the idea of being involved in a lot of things to make our state a better place.
The Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect is in the process of forming two subcommittees in order to make the best use of our time. We received the report from the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children last week. This has been a year long effort with hearings held in four different areas of the state and has received testimony from 35 experts in the field of child sexual abuse. Every individual and organization has a responsibility to protect children. The wakeup call has sounded and it is now the responsibility of all of us to quit ignoring this heinous problem and take measures to stop it.
There were two Senators and two Representatives on the task force and they have asked to be a part of our joint committee. This report will drastically speed up our process of investigation, as much of the ground work has been done.
Here’s some sobering statistics for you. Twenty-five percent of girls and 16 percent of boys experience sexual abuse during their childhood years. Children are most often molested by someone they know. A third or more of the abuse is by a family member and only about seven percent is done by strangers. Seventy-five percent of the abuse occurs behind closed doors and it is not typically a one time event, children experience the abuse over and over again and live in a state of fear and terror. There are huge barriers to disclosing the abuse and include shame and guilt, fear of not being believed, fear of bodily harm per threats from the abuser, and fears of being removed from the home. What the blazes is wrong with people?
This is not a localized problem. It is country wide! My goals with our Joint Committee are to investigate the reporting system, or hotline, the methods of removing a child from the home when necessary, the foster and adoptive programs, and then work with the children’s division to make changes and improvements to the current system. That in itself will occupy the next six years which is the duration of the committee.
Page 2 of 2 - Addressing the concerns brought up by the Task Force is an entirely new project. The important thing in my mind is to make sure that the time and effort needed to address these problems is allocated. I know that the General Assembly has to deal with healthcare, budgets, education, social service, etc., BUT, we can’t ignore this awful monster that is devouring our children.
I’m sorry that I couldn’t bring you a more upbeat report this week, but these things have to be brought to light and we absolutely must do everything in our power to put a stop to them. Until next week, I am and remain, in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Missouri House of Representatives. Contact him locally at 437-8223 or at his Jefferson City office at (573) 751-9801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.