Survivor speaks out on the lasting impact of childhood abuse

In Michigan, every 16 minutes, a child is a victim of child abuse.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 5:24 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 5:52 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It aims to raise awareness about a dangerous and sometimes deadly problem: child abuse.

Research shows that five children in the United States die every day at the hands of an abuser, but experts believe it is an under-reported issue across the country.

Marylee Martin spoke of her childhood and how her father would have secret meetings with her, telling her how to be the perfect wife when she was nine years old. Although she wasn’t sexually abused, the damage he caused lasted for years.

“He would say, ‘If you are good at sex, no man would ever leave you,’ And that planted a seed in my head that grew like cancer,” Martin recalled. “I was out there giving it my best shot and setting myself up, without knowing it, to be used or abused or date-raped, or all of the things that have happened to me searching for love in all the wrong places. I didn’t understand what love is.”

According to the United Health Foundation, more than 600,000 children in the U.S. were victims of child abuse in 2020. In Michigan, every 16 minutes, a child is a victim of child abuse.

In 2020, 12.7% of children in Michigan were victims of child abuse.

Small Talk Children’s Advocacy Center in Lansing provides a safe space for hope, healing, and justice for child victims.

“We have a staff of therapists who can work with children as long as they need to and then we have advocates, as well, who can help children and families access basic needs,” said Alex Brace, with Small Talk Children’s Advocacy Center. “And then also accompany them to court if that is the route it goes.”

If you suspect abuse or neglect of any child or adult, you can report it to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services at 1-855-444-3911. The toll-free phone number is available 24/7.

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