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New Child Abuse PSAs Tell Disturbing Story

There is a serious problem in Abilene, and people are not talking about it. But those who witness the child abuse every day, want to bring it to the community's attention. They hope two new public service announcements will do exactly that and put a stop to the rise in child abuse.

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It goes without saying, child abuse is a serious issue. The local statistics are alarming. The Abilene Police Department says it deals with about 400 child abuse investigations each year. That number is one of the reasons that the Regional Victim Crisis Center teamed up with the Abilene Theater Group, the Carver Youth Council and Abilene PD to create two public service announcements. Even those involved admit it's uncomfortable to watch and difficult to digest.

"One in three girls, one in five boys will be sexually assaulted or sexually abused before they're 17," says Dianne Dotson, the executive director of Regional Victim Crisis Center. "And the number of kids who will be physically abused is greater than that."

In this last year, Dotson says nearly 300 child abuse victims have come to the agency for help.

"It crosses all boundaries of ethnicities, education and income," explains Dotson. "It's in all neighborhoods."

"For a long time all of us grew up on this concept of 'stranger danger'," says Abilene Police Chief, Stan Standridge. "The logic's fairly simple but the problem is we haven't kept up with the times."

Today, 'stranger danger' makes up only 3% of child abuse in Abilene and surrounding towns. While, at least 97-percent of such abuse is committed at the hands of a relative or a family acquaintance, and that number continues to rise.

"Because this is occurring inside the home, we need to become very real with the circumstances so that we can ultimately change what's occurring in our city," says Chief Standridge.

For 20 years, Kathy Leet's volunteered with the crisis center. Neither she nor her 13-year-old son hesitated to become involved in creating the PSA when asked. But both admit watching the script come to life wasn't so easy.

"I didn't think it was going to be that bad, but once I was involved in it, and they started telling me what to do, I kind of felt like it was happening to me," says Anthony Leet.

"It made me uncomfortable," says Kathy Leet. "To the point where I kept telling myself 'this is just acting, he's just acting'."

While it may be an uncomfortable topic, those involved say it's time to speak up and take action.

"If you see something, if you hear something, then say something. Report it."

Dotson says under the law, even if you're unsure if a child is being abused, if you have the slightest suspicion that something wrong is happening, it's your responsibility to report it to the authorities.
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