CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s a sad, staggering statistic – every year, the city of Chicago has some 2,000 reports of child sexual abuse.
People who help those children want you to understand how serious it is, and as CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, they have taken their message to Daley Plaza.
The dawn-to-dusk art exhibit is called “The Resiliency Project.” It has special meeting for one mother and daughter, who asked to have their identities as they shared their own stories of abuse.
“I would rather that my life had been taken that to have this happen to my children,” the mother said.
The woman’s daughter held her mother’s hand as she shope.
“I was 13,” she said.
That was the age her stepfather began sexually abusing her and her three sisters.
“When he wasn’t that person doing those things to me, he was the best dad in the world,” she said. “I didn’t want to lose that,” she said. “I’m like, OK, this is the price you have to pay.
Continued her mother: “Broken legs; broken arms heal. Your heart, your mind, are the hardest things to heal. The spirit of a child was taken.”
Child sexual abuse happens more often than you may realize. The Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center says it sees five to seven new cases each and every day.
“They need to know that the numbers are real,” the mother said.
To make the point of just how serious, and alarmingly frequent, abuse takes place, the Children’s Advocacy Center has placed a public art in Daley Plaza, composed of 1,000 children’s desks and chairs.
The chairs are split up into two groups. One group has a blue ribbon attached to each of hundreds of hard plastic, stacking classroom chairs, with a child’s name and age. That group represents the number of reported cases of sexual abuse.
The second group is made up of wooden desk chairs with no names or ribbons, and represents the number of child sexual abuse cases that go unreported.
At the front of the exhibit is a chalkboard, which points out the horrifying statistics – one in three girls and one in six boys is sexually abused by the age of 18.
It’s called the Resiliency Project.
“Part of it is an awareness builder, first and foremost, about child sexual abuse,” said Trevor Peterson, director of grants and government relations for the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. “It is something that, as a community, we need to speak about.”
Through the display, they want families to know that after the pain, there is help, healing and hope.
“Our prayer as a family is that by us supporting things like this, it will put people in a position to talk about it,” the mother said.
“I hope they see those desks and know they’re not alone,” the daughter added.
She also hopes those suffering from the pain and trauma of abuse can speak up, and ask for help.
The exhibit comes on the eve of Child Abuse Prevention Month.