More than 3 million children in the U.S. were abused in 2014. Those with San Mar Children’s Home said sometimes that abuse can be hard to spot.
“They’re hard to see because of the secrets they’re asked to keep,” Ellen Savoy, deputy director of San Mar Children’s Home said.
However, there are some red flags that parents, teachers and relatives can pick up on, such as grades dropping, lack of communication and hiding in their room.
“They can’t focus, they can’t concentrate on other things, they’re totally fixated on when is it going to happen next,” Savoy said.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 14,928 children in Maryland were abused on a regular basis, and it’s the same story for 6,096 in Virginia, 4,139 in West Virginia and 3,388 in Pennsylvania.
Stranger danger is not responsible for most child sexual abuse, as nearly 90 percent of children know their abuser.
However, there are local entities who are creating safe spaces for these children and teaching them they can trust others in time.
“The kids who seem to grow into healthy adults are those who have had meaningful connections with others,” Bruce Anderson, President of San Mar said.
Now, the children’s home is changing their model for care. Instead of helping children once they are down, San Mar is working to lift families up and prevent abuse before it happens.
Anderson explained it through a metaphor.
“What if you took some of those resources and you went on top [of a mountain], and you built a guard rail, and you help these children not to fall in the first place – that’s the prevention part of this,” Anderson said.
San Mar is practicing this initiative through its Bester Community of Hope program.
Anderson said if anyone wants to make a meaningful difference in a child’s life who has been abused, the center is always looking for mentors and foster parents.