By Denise Yuki
In Hawai`i, more than 50 percent of reported victims of crime are under 18 years old. Research shows that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18. While these numbers may seem staggering, the actual statistic is unknown because child sex abuse is often not reported. Some studies conclude that only 10 percent of children “tell.”
The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to a child and an episode should be handled swiftly. Some signs can only be detected through physical examination by a physician. Child sexual abusers can make the child extremely fearful of telling, and oftentimes special efforts need to be made so that the child may feel safe.
Such efforts are taking place and help is available. Hawai`i’s Children’s Justice Centers are programs of the Hawai`i State Judiciary that offer necessary professional help and support for victims on all islands. On average, approximately 1,300 children are seen per year.
The Centers provide nurturing environments that bring together a team of professionals who coordinate their activities and investigations of child abuse and neglect in unique public/private partnerships between the Judiciary and the community. Due to the sensitivity of the situation, in addition to the fragility of a young child’s developing mind, the standard judicial protocols are made more difficult when dealing with a young victim who has witnessed or experienced sexual abuse. The Justice Centers are there to ensure that the investigation process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible, with specialized programs for every age group ranging from pre-school to adolescent.
If a child says that he or she has been molested, parents should try to remain calm and reassure the child that what happened was not their fault. Parents should then seek a medical examination and psychiatric consultation.
Many families would like to see their child’s offender brought to justice. The Justice Centers and the State’s Judiciary website not only provide information on psychological and emotional services, it also provides information on what steps need to be taken to proceed with legal action.
To access the Justice Center’s Services, families can go to the Hawai’i State Judiciary website and follow these simple steps.
1. Go to the State Judiciary website at http://www.courts.state.hi.us/
2. There will be blue sub-headings at the top of the page. Scroll your mouse over “Services”, and click on “Children’s Justice Centers”.
This is a direct link to the program’s page.
3. On the Justice Center’s home page, there are links on the left side that have specific services links listed, such as “Find a Mediator” or “Victim Assistance.”
4. On the right side of the home page, there is a box that includes links for more information on the Children’s Justice Centers, as well as how to contact a Center, and where the nearest Center is located.
This link has information on criminal justice matters. It includes more links that will lead you to the page to get the information you need. These links are:
Your rights as a victim of a criminal act
How Adult Client Services assists crime victims
How to submit a victim impact statement
Sentencing of the offender
How to seek restitution from the offender
How to seek government compensation for certain types of crimes
How to be notified or comment on an offender’s transfer request to another state
Where to go for help
It is important to stress that sexually abused children and their families need immediate professional evaluation and treatment. Child and adolescent psychiatrists can “help abused children regain a sense of self-esteem, cope with feelings of guilt about the abuse, and begin the process of overcoming the trauma.” Such treatment can help reduce the risk that the child will develop serious problems as they mature into conscientious and contributing adults of society.
Signs that your keiki might be a victim of sexual abuse
-Unusual interest in or avoidance of all things of a sexual nature
-Sleep problems or nightmares
-Depression or withdrawal from friends or family
-Statements that their bodies are dirty or damaged, or fear that there is something wrong with them in the genital area
-Refusal to go to school
-Aspects of sexual molestation in drawings, games, fantasies