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Boy should be praised for disclosing sexual abuse

April 23, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
The news report yesterday said a 61-year-old Cameron man allegedly sexually abused a 13-year-old boy in the man's home on at least two occasions.

For families, this is an unthinkable — and, too often, unspeakable — crime.

Fortunately, the boy did what his abuser assumed was unthinkable. He told.

What a brave young man! I wanted to punch my fist in the air and yell, "Yeah!" when I read the article because I am so proud that the teen spoke up.

While some of the stigma of sexual abuse has waned with better education and more awareness of the problem, the stigma still exists, especially in this boy's age group. Think about it: he's probably in 8th grade. Do you remember how cruel you could be — or your peers were — at that age?

But the boy told his school resource officer about the abuse — and how he'd been given gifts and praise by his abuser prior to and following the violations. The officer did his job by reporting the boy's disclosure, and an arrest was made.

First thing this morning, I called Leslie Vassilaros from Harmony House Children's Advocacy Center in Wheeling to find out how she felt about this case. She could not disclose, of course, whether her agency handled it, but she had this to say:

"(This boy) is a hero. He has, in our opinion, probably prevented other people from being abused." She says that because of the alleged perpetrator's age and the probability based on research that the boy is not his first victim nor would he have been his last.

This boy is a hero. Not someone to be ridiculed or condemned. Not someone to make fun of or stay clear of. Not someone to call derogatory names.

A hero. Someone to praise for bravery. Someone who refused to let an adult violate him any longer. Someone who, despite possible condemnation, did what he knew was right.

April is sexual abuse prevention month. Harmony House will be going into Ohio and Marshall counties' elementary and middle schools on Wednesday, April 29, with its Hats On for Heads Up program to teach children preventative measures and to respect others.

"It also gives every child victim out there the opportunity to see that the community is supportive, and it tells them they can hold their heads up high," Vassilaros said.

I hope that the Cameron community respects and appreciates their 13-year-old hero. And I hope he walks through his school with his head up high.


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