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McMahon Ryan Center says education, action will drive down child sexual abuse cases

The number of children from Onondaga County who go through the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse is holding steady. Officials say getting the word out about these children who are sexually abused is key to getting that number down.

About 700 kids used the services of McMahon Ryan last year, and most of them knew their abusers, says Executive Director Linda Cleary.

"Almost 45 percent of the children we’ve seen were abused by a parent," Cleary said. "And then another almost 40 percent were abused by someone they know or love.”

Cleary says says the number of abused kids amounts to ten school buses lined up and filled with children. She hopes that visual gives people a better picture about just how many kids suffer at the hands of abusers every year.

“And that’s really important statistics for a community to know," Cleary explained. "We are good at teaching children about stranger danger, but that’s not necessarily who’s doing the physical or sexual abuse of our children.”

Cleary says the numbers don’t go down because often people don’t want to talk about child sexual abuse, even though it’s happening across all communities and economic spectrums. She believes the way to get these numbers down is for neighbors, friends and family members to take action.

"When something doesn’t sit right with them, don’t ignore it," Cleary said. "Do something about it. We’d rather have phone calls made and have something investigated and find out there isn’t anything there than to miss a chance to protect a child.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.