State launches push to wipe out child abuse

The Enough Abuse Campaign, a 9-year-old coalition of public and private agencies, including the Massachusetts Medical Society, Jane Doe Inc. and the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, is looking for partners around the state to implement local efforts to prevent abuse.

The statewide campaign has developed an extensive curriculum for teaching adults to look for danger signs and changes in behavior in children that might indicate sexual victimization.

The coalition, led by the Massachusetts Citizens for Children, can offer guidance and assistance in finding grants to support local initiatives, said Eva Montibello, a spokeswoman for Enough Abuse.

Enough Abuse, which received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002, has already helped create similar initiatives in Gloucester, Lowell, Newton-Waltham and Western Massachusetts. The organization has also been supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women.

Montibello told the Sun Chronicle newspaper that while parents and other adults are highly motivated to keep children from harm by sexual predators, many lack sufficient knowledge to deal with the issue effectively. For instance, she said, many are unaware that in 90 percent of cases the abuser is known to the child.

Adults also are generally unaware of the potential threat of sexual abuse from other youngsters, according to recent polls. But in an estimated 40 percent of cases, according to latest figures, perpetrators are other young people.

Child behavior experts say the incidence of abuse by perpetrators 15 or younger is increasing. Parents and school officials were shocked this spring when a 15-year-old boy was charged with raping a 14-year-old classmate at Attleboro’s Coelho Middle School.