The Betrayed series special report by the Chicago Tribune exposed Chicago Public Schools’ failure to protect students from abuse in alarming numbers. While it was disheartening to read this report, we were not entirely shocked by its findings. The report highlighted many realities for CPS students and staff that are familiar to us.
As the front-line responders in Chicago to all reports of child sexual abuse, ChicagoCAC and our partners respond to more than 2,000 cases each year. Every day, we coordinate the efforts of dedicated child protection staff, law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts and mental health clinicians, all working under one roof. Our goal is to streamline the investigative process, and ensure that children and their families receive the resources needed to heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.
Many of the cases included in the Betrayed special report were investigated by the team at ChicagoCAC. One of our top concerns is that many others have not. Although our state’s mandated reporter law is designed to protect children from sexual abuse, it is too often our experience that most professionals do not fully understand the law, their responsibilities or how to spot, report and prevent abuse. This problem is not limited to only CPS. It is one we see at many youth-serving organizations, including athletic and daycare programs.
The Betrayed series has revealed the dangers and terrible consequences of institutionalized negligence and mishandling of abuse reports, and brings further attention to a problem that is much bigger than CPS and the city of Chicago. Over the past year, the MeToo movement has helped shine a light on the prevalence of sexual abuse in our country and the need to disrupt and change the systems that allow abuse within our culture. Fortunately, in the City of Chicago, we can offer intervention and a means to prevent abuse.
At ChicagoCAC, we do this every day through advocacy and education. Our Education, Outreach and Prevention team has established a robust training program utilizing evidence-informed curriculum. We facilitate trainings on preventing, recognizing, responding to and reporting sexual abuse to thousands of people every year. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible, particularly professionals who care for children, and ultimately prevent abuse before it begins.
Education and prevention training is one of our top priorities, and we provide as much as our resources allow. We must rely on private funding to do that as government funds for prevention are minimal despite its cost-effectiveness. We will continue to battle abuse and restore lives, and are already working with CPS to address the problems within their system. We invite you to join us in the battle.
It’s going to take all of us invested in the futures of our children to end abuse. It’s time to make this a priority.
Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center