As the Penn State sexual assault allegations came and went, I was encouraged multiple times to write a letter in support of sexual assault survivors here.
However, I did not see much parallel between the Penn State community and our own and was unsure of how to make things relate.
Obviously, I have changed my mind.
As I was watching SportsCenter, there was story after story about the Jerry Sandusky trial. However, it was Joe Paterno's name mentioned over and over.
In case you are unfamiliar with the events that took place, Paterno went to his supervisor when a subordinate told him of sexual events he witnessed between Sandusky and a child.
It seems that each person only told the next in line and in the end, the story never made it to the proper authorities.
In many jobs I have had, and in talking to most people, this has been the protocol for reporting in eastern New Mexico:
You tell your immediate supervisor, who tells their immediate supervisor, and so on and so forth. Eventually, the story gets to the authorities … or not.
Either way, most have felt they have done their part by telling someone. While I am sure most thought this would be an effective system that would allow weeding out of bad or untrue stories, it is basically a crap shoot, a game of telephone you played as a child where no one knew what would come out of the last person's mouth … if anything.
In our community I have heard, over and over again, "But it's none of my business," "I am not required to do this," or "I am not sure and don't have any proof."
Often out of fear, people do not go directly to authorities with their concerns, but tell someone they think will report the situation, and like the situation at Penn State, nothing gets reported.
Fortunately, New Mexico has resolved that issue for everyone.
In New Mexico's statutes regarding sexual offenses, the law 32A-4-3 states those who know or have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused or neglected must report the matter immediately to: (1) a local law enforcement agency; (2) the department (Children Youth and Families Department); or (3) a tribal law enforcement or social services agency for an Indian child residing in Indian country."
This law takes away the question and provides a clear way to go about helping victims in our community.
The responsibility to report lies with all of us; not just morally, but also legally.
We have to protect our children here. Over the past fiscal year, 70 percent of the victims seen at Arise Sexual Assault Services were children. This is an astounding number. The sad part of this is, there are many more cases that go unreported.
Children cannot fight alone. They need adults who will stand by them and be their voice.
Don't let child sexual abuse hurt another one of our littlest members of the community.
We have to learn a valuable lesson from Penn State. Every person must make it their duty to report … if for no other reason, it's the law.
Leigh Ana Eugene is director of Arise Sexual Assault Services in Clovis and Portales. Contact her at: