I've been pretty fortunate in my life. I have a successful homebuilding business, five kids and five grandkids with another on the way. To give back to the community, I donate to local non-profits. Until 10 years ago, that giving usually took the form of writing a check, but then I attended a fundraiser at a local children's home and that all changed. The director mentioned that they actually needed volunteers and mentors for the kids as much as they needed money, so my employees and I put on a barbecue for the 300 children staying at the facility. It was a big success and became an annual event. I started getting more involved with the organization, providing Christmas gifts and Easter treats for the kids through my company. Since we were in the construction business, we also did some pro bono work building a bike shed and shelves and installing sidewalks.
The organization used to primarily care for orphans and I assumed they still did, so I was surprised when the director told me that 90 to 95% of the children in their care, who were an average age of 7 to 9, were not orphans, but were victims of sexual abuse. I was absolutely astounded. I thought I was a pretty aware guy, but I had no idea that so many children were sexually abused.
The statistics about child sexual abuse are staggering --1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually abused by age 18 -- yet the topic is vastly under-discussed. The silence is caused in part by the fact that over 90% of the perpetrators aren't strangers, but someone the child knows and trusts. While treatment centers for victims reach only a fraction of those in need of treatment, there's another issue. There are few, if any, organizations that focus solely on preventing this abuse.
That's when I stopped thinking about giving as writing a check to a charity and started Race Against Abuse of Children Everywhere (RAACE), a Maryland non-profit dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse. I knew that to make a difference, I had to roll up my sleeves and get involved. Our mission is to raise public awareness and provide age-appropriate educational tools to help families protect their children. We stage an annual "prevention tour," travel around the region to family-friendly events, and use our two-story, carnival-style "Big Wheel" to catch the attention of event-goers and teach them how they can help prevent child sexual abuse.
Abusers work in the dark and our goal is to shine a light on this epidemic to help parents and families fight back. If we can teach families how to protect their children, we're taking the first steps towards preventing children from becoming one of the 39 million child sexual abuse survivors in this country.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll feature at least one post from a #GivingTuesday partner every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here.
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