Let’s face this monster in the open

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Sentencing this week of a woman who strongly discouraged two young girls from identifying the man who molested them is righteous ground for outrage.

Threatening suicide if the girls identified their assailant, whom a jury Thursday found guilty of molesting a 5-year-old and infecting her with a venereal disease, is almost beyond comprehension. That’s not intimidating the children; it’s further terrorizing them. According to court records, methamphetamine use was a factor in this horrific case. But it cannot be used as an excuse.

The disgusting, tragic nature of cases like this one turns healthy people’s stomachs. It’s our hope, though, that it does not turn away healthy people’s eyes. Stories like this involving great harm to society’s most vulnerable citizens must be shared. Their pain must be felt. In the absence of public awareness, the damage will only continue.

Think we’re an enlightened society? That horrors are visited upon children only in extremely rare cases? Then consider some statistics from a 2017 report from the Idaho State Police:

• More than half (51%) of victims of sex crimes are under 14.

• Nearly 3 in 4 victims (72%) are under 18, and 75% of offenders are adults.

• More than 8 in 10 victims of sex crimes are female, compared to 54% of other violent crime victims.

• 96% of reported sex crimes are committed by someone known to the victim.

• Most sex crimes — 79% — occur in the home.

If those numbers aren’t chilling enough, this is: Some experts estimate as many as 9 of 10 child abuse violations are never reported. Obviously, if they’re never reported, the perpetrators are never brought to justice — and their crimes very well may go on unabated.

Coeur d’Alene-based Safe Passage and many other abuse and domestic violence prevention advocates believe shining a light on the issue is essential to encouraging reporting and keeping more children safe.

We feel sick reporting stories like the one on today’s front page, but we believe strongly that shining too much light rather than too little is the only route that will lead to sorely needed change.

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