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Enough with the silence

April 10, 2012

No one wants to talk about it.

But the number of child sexual abuse cases reported in the Eastern Sierra has gone up this year, from one to three in Mono County and from six to nine in Inyo County. That might not seem like much, but these are two very small counties and it’s an unusually sharp increase.

No one knows why officially, but there’s good speculation.

“Let’s face it, this has really been in the news lately,” said Lisa Reel, executive director for Wild Iris. “And the ones reporting in our area are young, under 16.”

It’s too bad she wasn’t just talking about the national news. Jerry Sandusky, all the way across the country, would be bad enough. In fact, Reel attributes at least some of the increase in the numbers to an increased awareness about exactly what child sexual abuse is, due to the Sandusky case.

But the numbers are going up here in Mono County because people are reporting themselves as victims, often after presentations at the schools, often just coming in to talk. A year ago this month, long-time Mammoth daycare provider Lupe Almaguer was sentenced to life in prison for molesting at least four children. Their stories spanned the course of almost two decades. Many parents and some local mental health officials believe the truer number is in the hundreds, given some of the testimony from the victims that came out during his case. If they are right, even by half, if child sex abuse were a disease, it would be an epidemic here.

Right here in Mammoth.

Then add the Joe Walker and Andrew Bourne case. At bare minimum, a wrong was done to a young girl by at least one man, who publicly confessed his guilt and will serve some time in state prison because of it.

But no one wants to talk about it.

And why would we? Who wants to let it sink in that when a child is sexually abused, it never, ever goes away? Yes, the child can prevail in life and accomplish good and even great things. Yes, they can move on, but anyone who has ever suffered such abuse knows better. There is no such thing, here, as adversity making one better than one would have been without it. It doesn’t work that way with child sex abuse. It only takes. It never gives.

“If child sexual abuse left behind the scars that physical abuse does, everyone in this room would be horrified,” said Susie Baines, Wild Iris’s Mammoth Lakes coordinator.

But finally, someone wants to talk about it. Free to everyone, there will be a Town Hall style meeting next Friday, April 13, at Cerro Coso Community College from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Everyone is invited.

The meeting will be facilitated by a national agency called Darkness to Light. Representatives from many organizations, from Wild Iris to First 5 to Child Protective Services will be there. A Q&A session will follow.

Then, on Saturday, April 14, a workshop for parents and professionals who work with children or just want to know more about the signs of child sex abuse, about how to prevent it, about what to do when it happens to someone, will be held, again free of charge.

Maybe there’s finally been enough silence.

Go to www.wildiris.com for more info on both these events.

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