Former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur knows firsthand the horrors of child abuse.
As a child she was sexually abused by her father for 13 years. Van Derbur kept her abuse a secret for more than 51 years before deciding to share her story with the public.
She has since written a book and now travels the country working to raise awareness about child abuse. Tuesday she came to Syracuse to speak at the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center's first annual Child Abuse Prevention Breakfast.
Van Derbur says she hopes her words will help inspire other victims of abuse to come forward.
"I survived rape for 13 years. It has been a difficult journey but I survived it," she says. "There is something about sexual abuse that causes shame to the victim. We need to turn that around. If you're an adult who has been raped, trust yourself to tell someone instead of living with decades of shame," she says.
Linda Cleary, Executive Director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, says protecting children is everyone's responsibility. "Our primary goal is to get people talking. If we can get people talking about child abuse, ultimately we can start preventing child abuse but it really starts with everyone saying they are not afraid to talk about it and I'm willing to do what I can to prevent it.??