Behind closed doors: new legislation designed to recognize and p - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Behind closed doors: new legislation designed to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse

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According to the National Center For Victims Of Crime, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse.

The saying "there's no place like home," has a different meaning for children who suffer abuse at the hands of their own family. It's a struggle behind closed doors, but House Bill 298 is designed to expose more cases of child sexual abuse, or CSA.

Tonight on KULR-8 News, we shine the spotlight on the topic that isn't easy to stomach, but is as prevalent and dangerous now as ever.

Stacy Dreessen works with The Family Tree of Billings to provide the community with special training aimed at preventing child abuse.

"It's important that we protect our children," Dreessen said. "Child sexual abuse is an important issue in this community and throughout the state. Child sexual abuse can affect children for a lifetime."

Dreessen said anyone who works with children, from teachers to school custodians, can help prevent CSA by knowing what to look for. Local legislator and MACo President Todd Devlin agrees, which is why Devlin spoke in support of House Bill 298.

"This bill is about bringing awareness and presentations and tools to schools," Devlin said. "Bill 298 would increase communication between the Office of Public Instruction and Health and Human Services, providing more information so those within the schools recognize warning signs."

Devlin uses a lot of his time and efforts towards raising CSA awareness and encouraging preventive programs. In a statement supporting HB 298, Devlin stated:

"We all have our stories, including me. I was one who suspected sexual abuse and never was in a position to help. Besides the extreme mental and physical damage it causes, according to a 2012 study, it costs society in the United States right at $137 Billion every year. If you do the math, that is $415 million to citizens of Montana every year. That is $3,000 per victim per year. Prevention is the obvious option." -Todd Devlin, MACo President

Devlin said HB 298 passed 93-5 in the House and 46-4 in the Senate. Devlin said he hopes a new law will bring more awareness and resources to Montana schools in the near future.

In the last year, more than 50 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Yellowstone County. Dreessen said anyone can report suspected cases of abuse to child the protection hotline, 1 (866) 820-5437. Dreessen also welcomes anyone with questions to call or visit The Family Tree Center of Billings.

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