Nationwide  –  Stories of sexual assault against children have been in the news recently in Idaho and nationwide, including details of allegations against former state Rep. Brandon Hixon since his suicide earlier this month.

Nationally, the former physician for the USA gymnastics team, Dr. Larry Nassar, was convicted of sexual assault charges. He was accused of molesting more than 150 under-aged girls.

Roger Sherman, head of the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund, says these two accounts have a lot in common.

He says in both cases, children weren’t believed when they spoke up, and even when they did, he maintains these men were shielded so their reputations wouldn’t be harmed.

“They protected the adult and the adult’s reputation and the adult’s career over the child,” Sherman states. “We have to be willing to take some risks on behalf of kids, and sometimes that’s going to be messy and often that’s going to be difficult. But if we don’t do that, children are the ones who will suffer.”

Sherman says child sexual abuse is prevalent and known as the “silent epidemic” because people don’t want to acknowledge it.

He points out at least 1 in 10 children in the United States has been sexually abused, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with much of that abuse never reported to authorities even when a parent is told.

So what can be done to stop abuse before it happens? Sherman says more than 15,000 Idahoans have been trained in the Stewards of Children curriculum, a program from the group Darkness to Light that teaches people how to prevent and respond to child abuse appropriately.

Around the country, 36 states require training for teachers and students in public schools to prevent abuse.

Sherman says some school districts in Idaho are doing this as well.

“We’ve seen that happen in the Parma School District, in the Vallivue School District,” he points out. “Boise State University has adopted programs, and we get a lot of people to do it voluntarily. But it would help to have legislation that would require it.”

Sherman says prevention is key to making sure children don’t suffer the lifelong effects from sexual abuse, often regarded as the most traumatic experience children can have.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service