Keith Smith Speaks at State House Press Conference as Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey introduces the “Enough Abuse Campaign”
The complete text of Smith’s speech is below.
TRENTON, NJ – It’s appropriate in the very neighborhood where citizens of New Jersey fought the Battle of Trenton 235 years ago, we announce the beginning of another revolution in the State of New Jersey, a revolutionary transformation in the way we protect our children from sexual abuse.
It’s a special day for Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, the New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Abuse, the Coalitions, the Enough Abuse Campaign and more importantly, every child in the state of New Jersey.
My name is Keith Smith. For the past 15 years, I have been a member of the board of directors of PEI Kids, the Lead Agency in the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse, serving 6 of those 15 years as the Chairman of the Board.
Today, I’m not here as a board member, academic or social worker. I’m here in a very different role. Today, I’m here to speak with you as an adult male survivor of childhood sexual violence.
In 1974, at the age of 14, I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger; a previously convicted, recidivist, pedophile predator hunting for boys in my childhood hometown of Lincoln, Rhode Island.
I’m not here to tell my story, but to speak from experience, to help highlight the devastating personal and societal effects of childhood sexual abuse and to tell you that the Coalitions announced today will make a difference in the lives of thousands of children in New Jersey by effectively providing adults with the awareness, the knowledge and the skills adults need to prevent child sexual abuse.
Children who are victims of sexual abuse often resort to inappropriate behaviors to cope as they suffer through physical, emotional, behavioral and social problems directly related to their abuse.
Some kids turn to drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, run away from home, suffer from eating disorders, sleeping disorders, personality disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome and life threatening sexually transmitted disease.
Some children have difficulty forming trusting relationships, resort to physical violence, sexual promiscuity and inappropriate and sometimes criminal sexually reactive behavior.
Some resort to cutting, self-mutilation and in the most extreme cases they’ve murdered their abuser while others contemplate, attempt or commit suicide.
Directly attributable to their sexual abuse, victims often suffer these enduring problems throughout their adolescence and into adulthood, many suffering through decades of silence, never disclosing their abuse.
Children and adults remain silent out of misplaced guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment and under threat of violence from their perpetrators, threats of violence directed to the child or their family.
The life altering physical, emotional, behavioral and social side effects of sexual abuse, suffered by children into adulthood, last a lifetime. While it saddens me to say that sex crimes committed against children will never stop, I’m proud to stand here today on the steps of the State House to tell you we’re taking action to minimize the risk to children by educating adults on steps they can take to keep kids safe and providing adults and communities with the knowledge and skills they need to put an end to the silence surrounding the sexual abuse of children.
The Coalitions introduced today, will work in our cities and suburbs in every county in New Jersey, from the George Washington Bridge to the Pine Barrens, from the Delaware River to the Jersey Shore, with community leaders, faith-based organizations, public officials, parents, educators and others, to replicate in New Jersey the Enough Abuse Campaign, a program the Center for Disease Control has called a “groundbreaking effort,” and one that “breaks the mold” in child sexual abuse prevention efforts and strategies.
Long before the sex abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse were front page news; and long before this weeks’ abduction, rape and murder of 7-year old Jorelys Rivera in Canton, Georgia, work was being done throughout New Jersey to transform the way we protect our children.
The groundwork is finished, the Coalitions formed and funded, and the day-to-day effort of providing adults and communities with the knowledge and skills they need to protect children from sexual abuse begins now.
To those who were involved in the funding and creation of the Coalitions, thank you.
To the people on the front-lines doing the day-to-day work to keep kids safe, thank you.
To the parents, grandparents and guardians of children in New Jersey, help is on the way.
And to the children who are victims of sexual abuse, if you are strong enough to speak out, ask for help. If you can’t and continue to suffer in silence, I understand…just know that you are not alone and believe me when I say the abuse you suffer is not your fault.
It’s never your fault.
Keith Smith, the author of Men in My Town, is a Survivor of a Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault and a Keynote Speaker on the topic of Childhood Sexual Abuse. The story of Keith’s assault and his transition from sexual assault victim to survivor has been featured in newspapers and magazines and his program, “5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe” has been discussed on radio and television. Keith has lobbied government officials to prevent cutbacks to programs serving children and he’s testified before the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee seeking to eliminate the statute of limitations in civil action relating to sex crimes against children. Keith participated in Oprah Winfrey’s award-winning show on Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and appeared on Anderson Cooper’s Special, State of Shame: The Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal.
More information is available at www.MenInMyTown.wordpress.com
Information about his novel, Men in My Town can be found at www.tinyurl.com/MenInMyTown
Keith’s Men in My Town LinkedIn Profile can be viewed at www.LinkedIn.com/in/MenInMyTown
Email Keith Smith at MenInMyTown@aol.com