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CU hosts panel on child abuse

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In 2012, statistics showed 3.4 million referrals made to child protective services nationwide of children being abused or neglected.

Statistics for child sexual abuse are startling. In the United States alone, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, making this likely the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences.

In more than 90 percent of incidents, children are abused by someone they know.

It is a number that has been on the rise. And those are just the reported cases.

Despite the startling prevalence of child abuse in America, Keith Edmonds, child abuse survivor and founder of the Keith Edmonds Foundation, pointed out: We still have to have an awareness panel to talk about child abuse.

The 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center attempted to raise awareness for what is a hidden battle for many young people by hosting a panel with Cumberland University on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The event was free to the public and featured as representatives from the Wilson County Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office and Department of Children's Services.

Child abuse survivors, Edmonds and Brenda Jackson, both shared their powerful stories.

Edmonds was just 14-months-old when he faced abuse at the hands of his mother's boyfriend.

The couple returned home after dinner one night. The boyfriend allegedly drugged his mother, and when he heard Edmonds crying in his crib - entered the room and held the baby's face to an electric heater.

Edmonds said he threw a rag over his face and left him in the crib to die. However, he did not.

The next morning, his distraught mother rushed him to the hospital for what her boyfriend had told her was likely a reaction to a "spider bite."

They were taken into separate rooms for questioning.

Edmonds underwent reconstructive surgery and his chance of survival was low. "It was touch and go for a few weeks," he said.

Edmonds was taken into state custody while his mother proved that she was not his abuser. Although he was reconnected with his mother, the physical and emotional scars of his abuse lingered well into his adulthood.

The same can be said of Brenda Jackson.

Jackson's abuse at the hands of her biological father lasted for more than a decade.

Jackson told guests at the panel that her father had killed someone and served jail time, during which she and her brother and sister lived with their maternal grandmother.

Upon his release, her father petitioned the court and was granted custody of the three kids.

On their first night in their new home, Jackson remembered their "training" began. Her father commanded they stand on one leg - a daunting task for kids who were between the ages of 5 and 7.

When she faltered, her father beat her with an extension cord. "That was around 7 o'clock at night, and we had to do that until 5 o'clock in the morning," she said.

Jackson said the kids were also used as "target practice." The father would shoot a BB gun at them, oftentimes hitting them. She remembered having to pull the pellets out of her skin.

On one occasion, Jackson said her father told her that she needed to stay home from school. He approached her, wearing a housecoat - and undressed himself to rape her. That is the day child sexual abuse began.

Jackson said that her father threatened to kill her if she told anyone - a threat she wholeheartedly believed. "I thought, 'He killed somebody before. He would do it again,'" she said.

Still, she told a schoolmate on the playground.

Jackson's classmate told the school principal, who called her into the office for questioning. When Jackson revealed what had happened - the principal called her a liar. She didn't have an adult or agency, such as the Child Advocacy Center, to turn to.

Jackson explained that her father behaved in public in a very jovial manner. Folks in their community thought he was a good man.

However, at-home was a different story. Jackson said he sexually abused her sister, as well.

At the age of 17, Jackson literally ran away from home to escape her abuser.

Both Edmonds and Jackson now speak openly about their experiences, in hopes that they can help others survive and speak out.

The 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy center works to lessen trauma of abuse victims. For more information, visit cac15.org.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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