Several of your island leaders have joined me in speaking out against violence and abuse in our community. Vice Speaker BJ Cruz, Senator Aline Yamashita and Police Chief Fred Bordallo have important messages they want to share with both victims and abusers. Video messages from Senator Yamashita and Chief Bordallo can be viewed by clicking on the links provided below. Vice Speaker Cruz’s written message is pasted below.
Please join us in making this holiday season a joyous and safe time for everyone.
Senator Yamashita: http://www.youtube.com/governorofguam#p/a/u/1/wu8tmsEhAXk
Chief Bordallo: http://www.youtube.com/governorofguam#p/a/u/0/qyUEP8mpeuI
A Special Message From:
Vice Speaker BJ Cruz
Buenas yan Hafa Adai. The holiday season should be a time of joy, hope, and family for our entire community. While many of us will fully enjoy this season of hope, my 20 years as a family court judge will never allow me to forget, that as you read this, many of our neighbors are trapped in a cycle of darkness and despair.
On average, at least one Guam resident commits suicide every two weeks; making our island’s 2010 suicide rate nearly double the national average. As startling as these numbers might be, no statistical proof is more valid than families broken apart by the loss of a child, a school community in mourning, or a pair of siblings without a mother because she did not turn to someone for help .
Though we must never lose our focus on suicide prevention, we must also acknowledge that other serious problems rob many of the hope we enjoy this season.
Sexual abuse remains an indiscriminant problem on Guam. It can happen to anyone rich or poor, local or otherwise.
Typically, a parent, trusted friend, or some other person in a position of authority commits the crime of sexual abuse, and it often happens within the confines of the home.
The effects of this type of brutal betrayal are shattering and may last a lifetime. Children are especially susceptible to sexual abuse. Nearly 90% of sexual assaults victims at Guam’s Healing Hearts program are children under the age of seventeen.
Abused children are more likely to get angry, lack enthusiasm, and refuse direction from teachers. By the time they reach middle and high school, sexually abused children are more prone to being easily distracted, insubordinate, lack self-control, and experience alienation from their peers. They are also at risk of depression, suicide, and drug problems and are more likely to be arrested as juveniles.
It is no coincidence that a child’s problems at home sometimes become a problem for other children at school. Like suicide and sexual abuse, bullying is a widespread and serious problem. Bullying is not a phase that children and teens go through. Bullying is not a “right of passage,” it is not horseplay, and it is not something to grow out of.
Bullying can cause serious and lasting harm. Bullying occurs when an individual or group with more power, in terms of either physical strength or social standing, picks on a person repeatedly.
Though my generation dealt largely with physical bullying, many of our children now face bullying in electronic form. Bullies attack through psychological means online. Cyberbullying may involve sending cruel instant or email messages or posting insults about a person on a website or social network.
Our children already deal with a world that moves faster and changes quicker than ever before–none of them should have to deal with contemplating suicide, surviving sexual assault, or bullying.
This is why I have dedicated much of my professional life to protecting our children and why I have worked with my colleagues in the 31st Guam Legislature and Governor Eddie Calvo to enact five key laws which:
– Lifted the statute of limitation on crimes of first or second degree sexual conduct;
– Lifted the statute of limitation for the prosecution of a sex crime involving a victim under the age of majority;
– Lifted the statute of limitation for civil actions involving child sexual abuse;
– Strengthened our laws against bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting;
– Created a taskforce on the prevention of sexual abuse of children
Though each of these laws are a significant step in the right direction, healing can only begin when people draw attention to their need for assistance or act to help those in need of that assistance.
If you need help, suffer from abuse, or need someone to talk to–our community can help you. Please contact the following government and non-government agencies and organizations for assistance if you are having a difficult time during this holiday season:
For 24 hour Services for Bullying or Suicide Attempt, call the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse CRISIS HOTLINE: 647-8833
Sanctuary, Incorporated Crisis Hotline: 475-7100
For Reporting of Child Abuse/Neglect, contact during working hours The Department of Public Health and Social Services Child Protective Services Division: 475-2672/1
If you have been victimized, please call: Victims Advocates Reaching Out 24 HOUR HOT LINE: 477-5552
If you have been victimized and are need of temporary emergency shelter, contact: Catholic Social Services Alee Shelter: 649-6729
To Receive training and support to prevent Suicide, call: Life Works Guam: 632-0257
/s/Benjamin J.F. Cruz