HEALTH

State officials believe child abuse is on the rise despite falling numbers, hope awareness campaign can change that

May 27, 2020, 6:17 PM
Utah Child Abuse...
(Sean Reyes, at podium, speaking about the Shine Campaign outside of the South Valley Children's Justice Center in West Jordan. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(Sean Reyes, at podium, speaking about the Shine Campaign outside of the South Valley Children's Justice Center in West Jordan. Credit: Paul Nelson)

WEST JORDAN – Concerns over child abuse are on the rise even though the official numbers appear to be going down.  State officials hope a public awareness campaign can change the conversation about abuse. 

Deondra Brown has been in the spotlight for most of her life as part of the famous The 5 Browns piano group.  However, the spotlight shined brighter than ever when she and her siblings came forward, claiming they had suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their father.  Keith Brown eventually pleaded guilty to abusing his daughters.

At first, Brown says she was hesitant about coming forward in 2011, believing that the label of “abuse victim” would never leave her.  However, the Brown daughters say they came forward to prevent him from hurting other children the way he hurt them.

Brown says, “I felt it was important to own this fact of our lives.”

Brown is one of three well-known Utahns supporting the Shine Campaign, which is designed to help abuse victims find the resources they need to break out of the abuse they’re suffering.  Brown says the messaging behind the campaign is very different from others because it doesn’t ask survivors to dwell on the tragic circumstances they’re going through.

“[It’s] celebrating the fact that survivors have lived through terrible things but they also have so much to offer our community,” she says.

Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak began, state officials say child abuse reports have gone down roughly 40 percent.  On paper, that may seem great, but Attorney General Sean Reyes doesn’t believe violence has declined.  He says roughly 20 percent of child abuse calls to the Utah Division of Child and Family Services come from teachers.  With classes and church services being cancelled, he says lifelines like teachers, neighbors and clergy have been taken away from these kids.

Reyes says, “Engagement has been limited to sporadic online interaction and, in many cases, eliminated entirely.”

Other Shine ambassadors include former state senator Aaron Osmond and Rabbi Avremi Zippel, who also say they were abused as children.  Zippel says he was able to start healing after learning other people had been going through the same kind of circumstances he did, and he saw they were able to regain control of their lives.

“There are survivors of child abuse that have gone on to pursue their dreams and live the most full, beautiful and meaningful lives possible,” Zippel says.

The campaign is scheduled to last through Spring of 2021 with billboards and digital PSAs telling victims where they can go for help.

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State officials believe child abuse is on the rise despite falling numbers, hope awareness campaign can change that