Sandra Potter displays two of her books on domestic violence and child abuse. An epidemic is killing our children and it is more deadly and more prevalent than polio, whooping cough or swine flu combined. It is child abuse. And one Peck resident has made finding its cure her life’s work. “Education and knowledge are the keys to prevention,” said Sandra Potter, CEO and founder of Dreamcatchers for Abused Children, a worldwide nonprofit organization based in Michigan.
“If people are properly educated on the signs and symptoms, it may put an end to this bitter and deadly disease.” Potter has co-authored a series of books about domestic violence and child abuse. Two of the books will all be available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Walmart, Target and other independent bookstores this month; another will be out by Christmas, Potter said. In Sanilac County, they will be available at Walmart in Sandusky, she said.
Potter founded her organization after her own daughter was traumatized by child sexual abuse. “If I had known back then what I know now, I think I would have spotted the signs and symptoms,” she said. “I wanted to do something to help families going through what I went through.”
Dreamcatchers is a legal, nonprofit 501-C3 organization with 12 different websites and almost 30,000 active members worldwide, dedicated to promoting awareness by educating the public on the signs/symptoms of child abuse, statistics, intervention, reporting, prevention, and assistance to survivors.
Consider these statistics:
*One in every three girls will be sexually molested before the age of 18.
* One in every six boys will be sexually molested before the age of 18.
* Every 10 seconds a child is abused, raped or killed in the United States.
* Today up to five children will die from abuse or neglect.
* In 10 seconds, another child will be abused in the United States. There were 2.9 million child abuse reports made in 1992. Only 28 percent of the children identified as harmed by abuse are investigated.
* Since 1980, physical abuse has increased 84 percent; sexual abuse 350 percent; emotional abuse 333 percent; and neglect 320 percent.
*85 percent of the 1.2-1.5 million runaways are fleeing abuse at home.
*Child abuse victims are 2.5 times more likely to become involved in crime, drug and alcohol abuse.
*Abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across all ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all educational levels
*It is estimated that 3-6 percent of the clergy population has abused a child.
*The typical child sex offender molests an average of 117 children, most of whom do not report the offense.
*One-third of abuse and neglect victims will go on to abuse or neglect their own children.
*Statistics indicate that abuse is symptomatic of an overall breakdown of the nuclear family. Abuse cases are significantly higher in broken, blended or cohabitating families.
Potter gathered these statistics after hours of research, using many online sources including www.childhelp.org and www.childabuse.org. But statistics aren’t what spurred her into action – it was the release of her daughter’s abuser after more than 14 years in prison. “I don’t feel that child sex offenders can be rehabilitated. It’s a very uneasy feeling to know he’s out and about,” Potter said. “He could move next door to me, if he wanted to. To me, that’s very offensive. I wanted to vent those feelings into something positive.”
Potter works indirectly with Peck Police Chief Paul Rich to review the National Sex Offender Registry to ensure child abusers do not move into the area. “There actually was a case where a man from out of state, who’d just been released from prison, moved into Peck. He was living with his brother and their three children. Between us, we got him to move out of our area,” she said. Rich remembers the case.
“They were actually in violation of the provisions set forth in the Michigan statute for convicted sex offenders, having to live an excess of one thousand feet from a school zone,” Rich said. “When we brought that to their attention, they moved out of state. That was due to (Potter’s) efforts.” Rich said Potter has contacted him at other times, too. “And that’s good. It’s nice to have somebody who will alert you to them,” Rich said. “Any time someone gets out and into the area, she’s right on top of that.”
Along with being vigilant, Potter believes the best way to break the abuse cycle is to educate parents, caregivers and the public and, most important, to arm the victims themselves with information. First of all there are many different types of abuse: Physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. “You want to look for any type of unexplained bruising and continuous injuries – bruising, bite marks, bald spots, burns, welts, as well as obvious fractures,” she said. Emotionally, abused children may be nervous or aggressive. Sexual abuse signs include difficulty walking, elimination problems, bacterial infections, itching, precocious knowledge of sexual activity, blood in underwear, and regressions such as sucking the thumb and bedwetting. Other emotional signs include depression or fear of a specific person.
Education is what Potter’s books attempt to do:
The first book in the series, “One Step Ahead of Fate,” covers domestic violence, the story of a woman’s experience. The first half is the actual story. “In the back is the self-help section for whoever wants it,” Potter said. The book was published by the national publishing firm Publish America and will be out around Christmastime.
“The Child Abuse Survivor Project” is a collection of abuse stories from around the world. “It happens more than we know. I think more of these cases are being heard today,” Potter said.
“Unnecessary Roughness…Til Death Do Us Part,” is the fictional account of a woman who marries her sweetheart – a professional football player – who kills her in the end. While the book is fiction, it’s based on many factual statistics. “I think it will hit home with a lot of battered women,” Potter said.
The latter two books are self-published and are available now.
Many more statistics detailing the methods, signs, symptoms and affects of child abuse may be found at Potter’s websites. While it is legally mandatory for all U.S. citizens to report suspected cases of child abuse, the fact that more than 60 percent go uninvestigated can be daunting.
“My mission is to try and make difference,” she said. She would like to become a public speaker, doing informative seminars with children, parents, teachers and caregivers. “You would be surprised how many parents don’t know how to use the National Sex Offender Registry and the Family Watchdog. It will show any sex offenders living in your area and what they were convicted of,” she said. Parents also might want to access www.mipsor.state.mi.us, the Michigan version of the national registry, she said.
Written By Margaret Whitmer — Reporter
By the time you finish reading this, 15 children will have been abused; In the next five minutes, 30 more; Within the next hour, 360 more; And by tonight, close to 8,000+ children will have suffered from abuse, 5 of which will die. Child abuse has increased 134% since 1980 and is now considered a worldwide epidemic. The high jump in child abuse deaths and the shocking increase in statistics highlights the frightening lack of public knowledge.
Educate Yourself--Learn the Facts--It may Just Save a Child's Life!!