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Leaders strategizing against domestic abuse

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - During an event at the Guam Community College today it was described as a crisis: the growing number of sexual assault and domestic violence cases in Guam.

"Imagine you are a child and the people you trust to care for you the people who are supposed to protect you are hurting you every day. You're afraid to go home you have no one to talk to how would you feel alone imagine that you're a woman or a young girl and someone threatens to kill you if you tell anyone," said Speaker Judi Won Pat.

Unfortunately that is the reality for so many in Guam. According to 2013 statistics from Child Protective Services there were 4,109 cases of maltreatment including sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and various forms of neglect involving our island's children.

In terms of sexual assault and rape 78% of the victims were women, while 22% were men. In eight out of 10 rape cases the victims knew the perpetrator. On the front line battling this crisis is Department of Public Health director James Gillan and his staff of unsung heroes. In particular he recognizes the small understaffed group of employees in CPS who handles almost 40 to 70 referrals of child abuse every single week with victims even as young as one month old. "I ask them how do you do this some of them have been doing this for 20 years I ask what it is that keep you doing this they said don't look at the situation you look at getting the child out of the situation that's what gives us the purpose. And that's the message we have to get out there. There's something going on I our community we have children having children and they don't know how to raise their children, we have people without any economic opportunities where there frustrated they don't know what to do so they take it out on themselves and the children," he said.

At the Guam Community College joint procolomations were signed between GovGuam and the island's military commands: a partnership to work together to end the cycle of violence. The procolomations were to commemorate sexual assault awareness month, child abuse prevention month and crime victims' rights week.

Lt Governor Ray Tenorio said, "We as individuals now have to reach out into our families and be that sword or conduit or channel for that message to get back. To be able to report because its only through reporting knowing and treating and rehabilitating offenders that we're really going to put a stop to family violence and sexual assault." And commanding officer of Naval Base Guam Captain John Ward added, "This is a community problem that we all need to be on the same page for we  need to collaborate together to work on to address the problem when we get that synergy when we get that partnership we learn from each other."

Aside from the procolomations Speaker Won Pat and her colleagues also presented a resolution commemorating the event. "No person should feel alone, no person should suffer from child abuse, sexual assault or any form of violence but sadly to many people in our island community do that is why we are here today we must put an end to this crisis," she said.

The speaker was also presented the Visionary Voice Award by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Its an award recognizing an individual for their outstanding advocacy and community work to end or prevent sexual violence. 

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