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Rauls: Honor women athletes who spoke the truth

As I watched a remarkable number of women athletes win gold medals for our country in the Winter Olympics, I was reminded of the young women who faced their own challenge earlier this year when they stood in a court room and told the world about years of abuse at the hands of their team doctor, Dr. Larry Nassar. In that moment, they, too, were champions for their own rights and those of countless children whose stories of abuse have yet to be told.

The poise, courage, and strength that had carried these young women to the top of the sports world were put to the test in front of a microphone, in a role no person should ever have to fill. As I joined my fellow Americans in watching their statements on the news and social media, I felt a mix of emotions and wondered how to protect my own child.

Those emotions are nothing new — like most child protection professionals, I don't just have those feelings, I harness them to renew my sense of passion in the fight to protect children. I am honored to work alongside people who feel the same way: a cadre of prosecutors, detectives, social workers, and medical and mental health professionals united in support of the child victims of abuse.

As our nation teeters on the brink of despair over the prevalence of child sexual abuse, people need to know there is actually cause for great hope. In an effort that is more marathon than sprint, success is measured in every attempt to break the silence with meaningful dialogue. Each of those frank conversations incrementally pushes aside society's discomfort with the issue of child sexual abuse and encourages others to speak their truth. When that courageous group of athletes made their elegant statements, they sparked conversations across the country that will lead, in succession, to engagement, detection, justice and, ultimately, prevention.

As awareness grows, it not only spurs behavioral changes for adults and caregivers, but also compels decision makers to refocus attention and resources where they are most needed. In Texas, a portion of those resources is directed to our statewide network of children's advocacy centers, where our teams coordinate the efforts of those child protection professionals in pursuit of safety, justice, healing and restoration for the victims.

So, in the year to come, as our centers open their doors to almost 50,000 new child victims of abuse across Texas, we will do so with a renewed fervor, inspired by the courage of these young victims who spoke their truth. We will not let the impact of their words fade as the nation's attention inevitably drifts to the next story. Instead, we will fan the flames of a fire sparked by their bravery and, child by child, continue our efforts to change the future.

In their honor, we will start new conversations and revisit old ones. In their names, we will show up to work every day energized by their courage as we advocate for our clients and guide them toward restoration. We will not do so alone. Instead, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave men and women who investigate and prosecute these heinous crimes and support the quest for safety and justice.

By their bravery, these young athletes are encouraging others to speak their truth as well. When those new voices reach our ears, we will be there for them, inspired by their courage, working tirelessly to ensure that all children victimized by sexual abuse receive the services and support they need. Together, we can help them build the kind of resilience needed to heal the wounds of trauma and fearlessly pursue justice.

As they do so, they will join a growing army of survivors that grows stronger with every outcry, prosecution, and therapy session. While Nassar's victims may have initially won acclaim for their athletic accomplishments, their greatest victory is the triumph of the truth that they so bravely bear. Because their voices have been heard, others like them will speak out and, rest assured, we will act.

Did you know:

Out of 48,000 child victims served at a CAC in Texas each year: 33%

of these children are male.

Report Suspected Abuse
Call 1-800-252-5400 or 9-1-1