Students and volunteers setting up balloons ahead of the Rally Against Child Abuse rally at the Idaho State Capitol. Each balloon represents 10 reported cases of child abuse in Idaho.
The speakers and attendees at the Rally Against Child Abuse on the capitol steps agreed: The cold, drizzly rain and gusty winds made for fittingly bleak weather for their subject. Every year, thousands of Idaho children are physically and sexually abused, but this rally leaned more toward how this hidden social ill affects individuals and their communities.
"I was sexually abused as a kid and was happened was I grew up thinking I was bad. ...I saw it as being my fault," said Matt Pipkin. "And that lie that I was bad took root."
Pipkin said he suffered for 20 years in silence before seeking help. He's now the founder and CEO of Speak Your Silence, a nonprofit that raises awareness about childhood sexual assault and connects victims with appropriate counseling services.
"[Childhood sexual abuse] is not a coffee table conversation piece. We're trying to change that into something people can be really excited to do something about and not take action because it's dreary and a bummer if they don't," he said.
According Pipkin, one in five Americans—some 39 million adults—has experienced some kind of sexual assault prior to the age of 18, but law enforcement officials, including Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennett and Boise Police Chief Bill Bones, the social stigma surrounding these kinds of crimes make the frequency with which they occur extremely difficult to measure. Bennett said that Ada County's FACES program received 2,100 reports of such abuse in 2014.
"It's a hidden crime too often," Bones said. "It affects [victims] for a lifetime."