It’s a problem that no community is immune to.
Child sex abuse and child sex trafficking isn’t often talked about but it happens more than you might think.
The Children’s Justice Center tells us hundreds of sex abuse cases are reported every year here in Hawaii. However, those outcries are likely only a fraction of the victims.
It’s a secret that no child should have to keep.
“Sexual abuse happens to children and it’s rampant. It’s very widespread in our community and others,” deputy prosecuting attorney Thalia Murphy said.
“There’s a lot of shame, there’s a lot of barriers that keep children from disclosing about abuse,” Jasmine Mau Mukai, Children’s Justice Center, said.
Every year, those secrets are revealed at the Children’s Justice Center of Hawaii.
In 2017, there were more than 800 reported cases of child sex abuse. Here’s a breakdown of the cases reported for each county.
The victims range in age from toddlers to late teens and in a majority of the cases, the one committing the abuse is known to the victim.
“Two-thirds of all children who are sexually molested don’t tell until they are adults,” Murphy said.
“Especially if it’s in the family, it’s somebody within the family, whether it’s a mother, father, somebody who they know and has a relationship and is abusing them it’s just extremely hard to tell,” Mukai said.
Recently there’s been a growing number of reports of child sex trafficking. The justice center dealt with 162 cases last year.
“And we know historically many of these children have been in our system, many of these children have been victims previously of abuse,” Mukai said.
So what can be done to combat the problem? We’re told it starts with community awareness.
“I think the message is that we as the community has to be aware that there’s a pretty significant prevalence of abuse, and that we really need to work together to be able to respond,” Mukai said.
“You need to let that child know that they were brave to tell, that they had a lot of courage to tell and that you need to tell the police,” Murphy added.
The Children’s Justice Center serves around 1100 children a year.