Dr. Claire Reeves knows too well about the monsters preying on children in America. A psychologist, Reeves often testifies in court in sexual assault cases involving children. But in 1992, she’d had enough of just testifying. She wanted to do something about a recurring issue she kept coming across: courts returning children to parents accused of sexually abusing them.
So, during that year, she founded Mothers Against Sexual Abuse (MASA), a nonprofit devoted to educating the public on child sexual abuse, providing resources for parents of abused children and helping adult survivors. From meager beginnings, the organization caught fire when Reeves spoke on a major California radio show shortly after forming MASA. She wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
Over 200 phone calls rang in for MASA from victims, and MASA scrambled to gather volunteers to return the calls. Then a production company in Hollywood filmed a public service announcement for MASA and donated the tapes to the nonprofit. MASA sent tapes to every major TV outlet across the country, hopeful that a few would air it. Instead, it aired on all of them.
From there, MASA’s influence grew. Thanks to help from various professionals, MASA gathered a national referral list of names of psychologists and legal personnel. They created a court watch program to oversee judges’ rulings in the cases of child sexual abuse in California. They began holding monthly meetings where victims could meet with psychologists and law enforcement to think of ways to protect victims’ rights.
But they didn’t stop there. They worked through the legal system to remove the statute of limitations for cases of incest and child sexual abuse in California. They began educational platforms to alert the public to signs of child sexual abuse on a national level, something desperately needed even now.
According to the nonprofit Darkness to Light, 1 in 10 children are sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18; 90 percent of victims know their attackers; and, sadly, only 4 percent to 8 percent of children report the abuse.
The cost to an abused child is immeasurable to the person, but it also touches your life, whether you know it or not. The financial consequences affect every taxpayer. Financial costs for health care, criminal justice, child welfare, special education and productivity amount to about $210,000 per victim.
Want to learn more about how to spot sexual abuse in the lives of children near you? Check out the MASA website for more information.