After 4-Year-Old Sexually Assaulted At Rainbow Beach, Advocates Call On City To Add Security | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


SOUTH SHORE — Violence prevention activists are demanding the city pay for more security at Rainbow Beach and are asking local youth to share their ideas on how to keep them safe after a child was sexually assaulted in a restroom on the Fourth of July.

A man aged 35-45 sexually assaulted a 4-year-old in at Rainbow Beach in South Shore around 5:30 p.m. July 4, police said. No one has been arrested.

Police released a sketch of the suspect last week and asked people who were at the beach from 3-6 p.m. July 4 to check photos and videos from that time, in case they caught the man on camera. People with information about the assault can call detectives at 312-492-3810, police said.

Rainbow Beach needs security personnel and video surveillance to prevent anything like this from happening again, activists said.

Violence Interrupters president Tio Hardiman said the city should hire child safety staff who would secure areas at Rainbow Beach where children would need more privacy, like restrooms, changing areas and showers.

Staffers could either tell a parent to enter these private areas with their child, or escort an unaccompanied child into the facilities and make sure they get out safe, Hardiman said.

By serving as “another parent watching out for the kids,” the security staff could help “avoid these types of incidents from occurring in the first place,” he said.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
Anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman.

The city and Park District must also install cameras outside of the bathrooms at Rainbow Beach, as “we could’ve had video footage of the individual” if they had been installed, said Andre Smith, CEO of Chicago Against Violence and perennial political candidate.

Smith and Hardiman handed out flyers at and around Rainbow Beach Sunday morning, aiming to raise awareness in the community and identify the suspect. Chicago Against Violence has also posted a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

“The more that we can circulate petitions, send out robocalls and inform people that this happened to a 4-year-old at a supposedly safe place — a beach — we can have more eyes and more ears and hopefully catch this individual,” Smith said.

Park District officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Littrice and Hardiman were part of a coalition that in March 2022 called on city leaders to protect Black girls and women after a 15-year-old was nearly kidnapped in South Shore. An 18-year-old woman was fatally shot and a 33-year-old Black trans woman was found dead in Chatham that same month.

As advocates raise awareness about the assault, the child’s identity “should never be exposed publicly” so the child isn’t further traumatized, community psychologist La’Shawn Littrice said.

Advocates must also let the child’s family members decide whether they want to be an active part of the push for justice and community healing, Littrice said.

“One family may work very hard [in the public eye] so this doesn’t happen to another child, while another may deal with trauma and fall back from wanting to be in the public spotlight,” she said.

Children are overwhelmingly more likely to be molested by someone they know, rather than by a stranger. Up to 93 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser, according to RAINN.

That means communities like South Shore need trauma-informed resources that can break the stigma of talking about child abuse and sexual assault alongside the added safety measures at Rainbow Beach and in other public areas, Littrice said.

“There are a lot of unspoken issues that take place within the home that children don’t necessarily talk about out of fear, embarrassment, of the family not wanting to look a certain way within the community,” she said.

“Children know what’s right from wrong, but they’re also given these fearful measures [by people around them] that causes them not to talk,” Littrice said. “They keep it inside until it impacts them as an adult,” which ends up impacting others in the community, she said.

Littrice called for a series of community forums in South Shore to bring public officials “who make decisions on how funding is allocated” in touch with clinicians and neighbors and plan how to keep Rainbow Beach safe for kids.

But adults can’t be the only ones sharing their ideas, Littrice said. As community leaders chart a path forward, they should canvass places where youth are active to encourage kids to give input, as well, she said.

“I think it’s very critical and very key for the children who are impacted to be part of those discussions,” she said. “That needs to be taken into consideration when you’re creating any sort of measures to prevent these things from happening again.”

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