OGDEN -- The retiring executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah said she's sorry there has to be an office to provide this service, but she doesn't see the need going away anytime soon.
Anne Freimuth will retire Dec. 31 from her statewide post after nine years.
She'll take with her hundreds of experiences of presenting a program on abuse only to have another child in the audience come forth to ask for help. One child who lives vividly in her mind was a second-grader who suddenly curled up into the fetal position on the floor during such a discussion.
"All of a sudden this little second-grader was hearing that what was happening to her wasn't OK," she said. "Nobody knew, because she didn't know that she was supposed to tell."
Freimuth said all of the ugliness she and her staff sometimes face would be worth it if only they ever helped one child. She wishes she could do more.
"We mouth the words that children are so valuable, but it's difficult to see when there are these child-abuse cases where people are only going away for five years," she said. "People feel sorry for the perpetrator."
She said, because children don't have any power of their own, society should be protecting them.
"I think every time the Legislature goes in and makes it that much harder for (the Department of Children and Family Services) to substantiate a case, it is saying that children aren't that important."
But sending the message that children are indeed important has been Freimuth's cause during almost all of her waking moments.
"Every child we can protect and every child we can give tools to, it's one more child that grows up with a better outlook on life," she said.
Freimuth knows this truth because she has also met adult victims of child abuse who struggle for many years.
"There is no set time frame for anybody to grieve. When you've lost the ability to trust, you are grieving too, and it takes a long time to build that back," she said.
And the problem lends itself to other life challenges, as victims don't prepare for the problems they possibly will face later in life.
She said statistically, victims are more likely to have a shorter life span and to suffer from such problems as drug and alcohol abuse as they try to self-medicate their emotions.
"Sexual abuse, domestic violence and poverty are cause and effect to one another," she said. "They are so interrelated, you can't solve one of them alone. That's why working with other agencies helps us to understand where these problems come from."
And often problems arise from inside a family circle.
"The big mystery is it's not some stranger walking down the street," she said. "Family members make the victim feel it's their fault, and it goes on for a long, long time."
Freimuth has seen her agency grow to include new initiatives, such as the healthy families program that follows at-risk mothers and their newborn children with monthly visits through to when those children start school.
She's also proud of a teen-dating initiative to help educate teens on healthy relationships.
"Kids don't know what healthy relationships are," she said. "It's just another whole cycle. People don't know where the boundaries are."