Protecting those who cannot protect themselves

The Camas-Washougal Post-Record recently chronicled the story of Camas sisters Kimberly Abell and Jennifer Chilton, two incredible women who lived through brutal childhoods to become strong wives, mothers, individuals and citizens.

After years of abuse at the hands of their father, they testified against him and he was put in prison. After being released early, he attempted to contact them. Disturbed that this was not against the law, Abell and Chilton worked to change the laws first in California and recently here in Washington.

Thanks to their efforts, with the signing of Senate Bill 6069 by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 17, sex abuse victims can now request notice from the state Department of Corrections when a specific sex offender is released or transferred, and also request that the offender refrain from contacting the victim and/or immediate family members.

Now adults, the sisters have said that their primary motivation for working to get state laws changed is to protect other victims of sexual abuse, so that they cannot be victimized again. Often, these victims are children who are unable to protect themselves.

This notion can be particularly true when the abuser is a family member.

In the sisters’ case, no one in their family knew, or even suspected that sexual abuse was happening. It was a secret they carried with them, out of fear of their father and what would happen if they told, for more than a decade.

And unfortunately, this kind of situation is more common than most of us would like to think.

In an effort to educate, a child sex abuse prevention training sponsored by Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, YWCA Clark County and the Washington State Department of Early Learning will be held Tuesday, April 1, in Vancouver.

The speaker will be expert Cory Jewell Jensen, M.S. She will talk about who sex offenders are and why they offend, confusion over re-offense versus recidivism rates, relationships between offenders and victims, offenders in youth service organizations, grooming tactics, problems associated with traditional prevention programs, increasing trends in sexually deviant behavior and the internet, and protecting children using advice from child molesters.

The free prevention training is for educators, law enforcement, service providers, parents, guardians and community members. To register, call 896-9912.

Abell and Chilton are truly role models who have shown what strength, determination and resilience can accomplish. With the proper education and tools, we can all make a contribution to preventing child abuse.