Last week, I was invited to serve as a panelist on a virtual community forum that Dauphin County hosted in response to the horrific murder of Kyan King. Kyan was a 16-year-old teenager from the Harrisburg area who was shot and killed in broad daylight as he tried to escape from a registered sex offender.
The details surrounding what happened to Kyan leading up to his death are at a minimum horrendous and evil. His family members, friends, classmates, and acquaintances are grieving and searching for a way to navigate life without him. Kyan’s untimely passing has left a profound impact on our local community.
That’s why Dauphin County hosted this forum—it was an opportunity for the community to come together and discuss subjects like child abuse and sex trafficking—which are often uncomfortable and difficult to talk about. Being educated about the warning signs of child abuse and sex trafficking is one-step closer to preventing it.
The statistics on child abuse, neglect, and child sex trafficking are startling. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. This is a major issue that should be of concern to all of us. In 2019, Dauphin County Children and Youth Services received 1,180 reports of child abuse, and 171 of those reports were substantiated (meaning, they were proven true). In Pennsylvania last year, there were a total of 4,865 substantiated child abuse reports and 51 children who died as a direct result of abuse.
Commissioner George P. Hartwick moderated the forum and the goal was to provide community members with information, tools, resources, and support services. During the forum, we talked about what type of warning signs could be indicators that abuse is occurring and what people should do if they suspect that a child is being abused.
I served as a panelist alongside Administrator Marisa McClellan (Dauphin County Social Services for Children and Youth), Captain Terry Wealand (Harrisburg Police Department), Steven Turner (Harrisburg Area YWCA), Dr. Dawn Crosson, PsyD (Clinical Psychologist), Ausha Green (Harrisburg City Council Oversight of Public Safety), and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jen Gettle (Dauphin County).
The forum lasted several hours and many members of the community had good questions pertaining to the prevention of child abuse. I left with the belief that every county across the Commonwealth should follow Dauphin’s example. It would be incredibly helpful for each community to hold these forums on a regular basis, so that individuals can know what services are available to protect children and how they can best prepare to themselves to play a key role in the safety, security and and well-being of all children.