SALT LAKE CITY – Billboards along Interstate 15 in Utah are delivering a jarring message as people pass by.
Designed by Prevent Child Abuse Utah, the billboards display a simple stat claiming one in five children in Utah will be sexually abused before turning 18.
“You have a very small window of time in order to have somebody read something,” said Mary Lucero, the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah. “When we were designing the billboards, we really just wanted to be able to capture peoples’ attention.”
She hopes the billboards begin a conversation about a serious problem in this state.
“Our confirmed rate of child sexual abuse specifically in the state of Utah is worse,” Lucero said. “It’s three times the national average.”
She encourages people to take a free course found on the Prevent Child Abuse Utah website.
“It takes 30 minutes, it takes 30 minutes to know what to look for,” Lucero said.
Statistics show most sexual predators know their victims and establish trust.
“There’s a grooming cycle that usually these perpetrators will go through, and so they will build a trusting relationship with the parents and the child,” Lucero said.
By learning the signs of abuse and educating children about what is and isn’t acceptable, Lucero hopes Utah can make a dent in the number of cases of sexual abuse.
“It’s easily understandable from a kindergarten-aged child, all the way up to an adult,” Lucero said when asked how parents can bring up the subject with their children. “Just don’t let somebody touch you where your bathing suit covers.”
To learn how to protect children from sexual abuse, you can find the online course here.