Rush Russell, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse - New Jersey makes an important point when he points out that there aren't many child sexual abuse prevention programs designed to highlight adult responsibility - it is a different mindset where the responsibility for preventing sexually abusive behaviors is not solely that of the children targeted by abusers. Rather, our program gives parents and other 'stakeholder' adults education on this issue and training on steps they can take - from specific messages and talking points for their kids to recognizing warning signs in abusers and victims.
Warren County has 'secret problem' with child abuse, official saysBy Tommy Rowan
December 16, 2012 at 6:00 AM
In the more than 30 years Karen Kubert has worked for Warren County, she hasn't seen the child abuse rate improve.
"It's kind of a secret problem," she told county freeholders last month. "People don't talk about it."
Now they will.
Warren County has adopted a pilot program called "Enough Abuse," becoming one of three counties in New Jersey to implement a comprehensive child abuse prevention strategy.
In 2011, Warren County ranked 10th highest in New Jersey in percentage of confirmed cases of abuse and neglect, according to the State Department of Children and Families. Phillipsburg led the county with 745 reports, but only 58, or 7 percent, were substantiated, according to state statistics.
Hunterdon County had the highest percentage confirmed cases of abuse in the state: 847 cases with 137, or 16 percent, confirmed.
Click here to see a copy of the report.
Rush L. Russell, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey, met with Warren County leaders and officials from Project Self-Sufficiency of Sussex County. They reported seeing an increase in abuse cases from media reports and conversations with public health leaders and service providers around the county.
"They felt like they were seeing a significant increase," Russell said. "They described a situation where they had seen an increase in the number of reports ... around child sexual abuse in the last few years and were concerned."
Project Self-Sufficiency, which serves Warren, Sussex and Morris counties, is replicating the Enough Abuse program that originally launched in Massachusetts about 10 years ago with funding from the Centers for Disease Control. The Ms. Foundation for Women and Prevent Child Abuse America awarded Project Self-Sufficiency a $25,000 grant for the program.
The Enough Abuse program provides free training sessions to parents and other adults on steps they can take to prevent child abuse. Russell said there aren't many programs in New Jersey designed to prevent child abuse that focus on adult responsibility.
"(We've got to) change the mindset in terms of parents being able to talk to their kids and be able to recognize some of the warning signs that are out there so they can intervene before this happens," Russell said.
"I think this topic has kind of been swept under the table because people aren't comfortable talking about it," he said.
Hackettstown ranked second in Warren County with 201 reports of abuse with 17, or 8 percent, confirmed. Washington, N.J. reported 181 cases of abuse with 23 confirmed cases, and Belvidere reported 181 instances of abuse with 23 substantiated cases.
Nine municipalities reported no substantiated cases of abuse. The state reports 142 confirmed cases of abuse countywide. The 2011 abuse and neglect statistics provided by the state do not include cases investigated by the state and passed onto law enforcement for investigation.
Kubert, director of the Warren County's Department of Human Services, said that the county needs change.
"(The rate) is extraordinarily high," she said. "And I think people that work in the agencies decided maybe we ought to take a look at what we're doing and come up with some best practices and see if we can develop standards and then everybody can work toward those standards."
Statewide, officials reported 91,680 cases of abuse in 2011 with 9,414 confirmed cases. Essex County recorded the highest number of confirmed cases at 1,167.
Russell said this is just "the tip of the iceberg at best" and that an estimated 80 percent of abuse cases are never reported to authorities. A Centers for Disease Control 2010 study found that 1 in 4 girls under the age of 18 and about 1 in 7 boys experienced an incident of child sexual abuse.
Kubert said the prevention strategy should include not only parents, but professionals, store clerks and neighbors as critical partners to reduce child abuse.
"It's trying to touch on anyone that will come into contact with the child," she said.