Today, at a press conference at the Missouri State Capitol, the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children released its final report, detailing twenty-two recommendations in seven core subject areas: community-based child abuse prevention, professional training and technical assistance, multi-disciplinary team excellence, mental health services and treatment, awareness, funding and statutory changes.
“The report is a blueprint for action,” said Joy Oesterly, Task Force Presiding Officer and Executive Director of Missouri KidsFirst. “Addressing child sexual abuse and meeting our duty to protect children demands the cooperation and action of individuals, organizations, elected officials and the General Assembly.”
The report emphasizes the substantial financial, health and social costs associated with child sexual abuse. National studies suggest twenty-five percent of girls and sixteen percent of boys experience sexual abuse during their childhood years. In order to better address this silent epidemic, the report recommends widespread public education, including the integration of education into existing programs, such as home-visiting services and other child abuse prevention initiatives.
In addition to education, the report highlights the importance of mental health services for children who have been sexually abused, as well as early intervention and treatment. In the report, in order to strengthen protections for children through child sex abuse prosecutions, the Task Force recommends a number of particular changes to Missouri laws and a proposed constitutional amendment. It also strongly encourages the General Assembly and private foundations to consider investing increased funding to prevent and address child sexual abuse in Missouri.
Authorized by Senate Bill 54 (2011), the Task Force consisted of individuals representing several areas of expertise. The Task Force conducted public hearings throughout the state and received testimony from thirty-five experts in the field of child sexual abuse. Drawing on testimony and the expertise of Task Force members, members compiled the recommendations for a report to the Governor, the General Assembly, and the State Board of Education on how to reduce child sexual abuse in Missouri.
The following individuals served as members of the Task Force: Joy Oesterly, Missouri KidsFirst; James Anderst, MD, Children’s Mercy Hospital; Police Chief William Carson, Maryland Heights Police Department; Tec Chapman, Missouri School Boards’ Association; Steve Cramer, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services; Senator Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City; Senator Bob Dixon, R-Springfield; Representative Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis; Representative Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis; Jill Meuth, EdD, Rockwood School District; Cheryl Robb-Welch, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Candace Shively, Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division; Christopher Smith, EdD, Springfield School District; Ellen Teller, MEd, The Child Center, Inc.; and Catherine Vannier, Missouri Office of Prosecution Services.
The Task Force was staffed by Missouri KidsFirst and financially supported by the Children’s Trust Fund.