An excerpt from a speech by Sharon Walker Epps, The Rowan Center Board Chair, at Gingerbread Houses and Cocktails for a Cause on November 30, 2023.
This holiday season, The Rowan Center is raising funds for our programs that serve children and young adults. Yes, this is about our mission and the work The Rowan Center does all year long—but it’s so much bigger than that. It’s also about your family, your kids, and the young people in your lives that you care about.
As we approach the end of the year, here are five great reasons why you should support The Rowan Center and talk to the young people in your life.
Why #1: We are in the midst of a crisis.
Nearly 60% of teenage girls say they feel profound sadness according to a CDC report released this year—and 30% of teenage girls considered attempting suicide. One of the reasons cited by the CDC was sexual violence. 1 in 5 girls have experienced sexual violence by the time they are 18.
I think about it like this: If you are a parent and you have 10 18-year-old girls at your house, two of them have already experienced sexual violence. That’s shocking and sad—and we know it doesn’t get better in college. Moreover, we know that the consequences like anxiety, depression, addiction, and self-harm can last a lifetime. One of the CDC’s recommendations to address this crisis? More education in schools around these issues.
Why #2: We are seeing a drastic and alarming increase in child trafficking in our community.
Girls as young as 10 years old are being groomed and trafficked. Here. In our community. Our counselors and educators are counseling survivors and educating school staff, parents, and children about this danger—including what to look for, how to respond, and how to heal.
Why #3: There are huge dangers online.
Another alarming trend, as described in the Wall Street Journal this month, is sextortion. The article focused on what is happening with young boys: A boy is sent an explicit photo of a girl he doesn’t know and is asked for an explicit photo in return. If the boy responds (and they often do), an immediate email is returned with a demand for money and a threat to distribute the picture on social media and to the boy’s contact list. Tragically, this has resulted in several suicides around the country.
We are educating and counseling students through this issue, and we have been there for families who have experienced this crime. In fact, I was discussing this with my 23 and 24-year-old sons—and they both had friends to whom this had happened recently.
Why #4. Last year, we had 20 disclosures in our area schools.
We teach classes and programs in school all year long, and last year, 20 children approached our educators and disclosed sexual abuse. 20 kids. This year, we are on track to have even more—with 7 disclosures already in the past two months. When we educate our children and give them the words and the tools to understand what sexual abuse is, we change lives. When you support us, you help save them.
Why #5. People are suffering for their whole lives.
The average age of disclosure of childhood sexual abuse is 51 years old. That’s a lifetime of untreated trauma. We see this every day at The Rowan Center: Adults who have not had the life they envisioned or the life they deserved, who often took years to realize what had happened to them, to put words to it, or to acknowledge the damage done. These people have navigated lives full of turmoil, anxiety, addiction, unhappiness, and destructive relationships because they didn’t have a safe place to turn. It’s unacceptable.
So….Let’s eliminate this scourge. Let’s educate our children, our partners, and ourselves. Let’s counsel people early and often if they suffer trauma. And let’s change these “whys” once and for all.
You can support The Rowan Center now at therowancenter.org/youth