I have been a parent for 7 months now and over that time I learned one thing, my son is my entire world. I cannot imagine the pain I would feel if anything ever happened to him. I empathize with the parents whom blame themselves for harm they did not inflict as if they did it themselves. Most of all, I can understand the powerlessness a parent feels when bad things happen to their children since they could not protect their child.
Darkness to Light’s Stewards for Children program offers a way to protect our children from sexual predators. The facts are that stranger danger is ineffective in stopping child abuse. In fact, 95 percent of child sexual assaults and abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows well like a relative, teacher, coach, or other children. Stewards for Children is a program that protects a child from just these kinds of perpetrators.
Child sexual abuse is a serious public health issue that has a rippling effect and is poisoning our communities. A child who is sexual abused is three times more likely to abuse substances and twice as likely to commit suicide. Community is also affected because victims are twice as likely to commit violent crimes. The CDC places child sexual abuse as the one public health threat to our children today. The national average suggests 1 in 10 children born today will be abused by the time they are 18. Girls are at the highest risk since 1 in 7 girls will be abused, while boys are being abused at a rate of 1 in 25. This is a problem that needs to be addressed aggressively. If you think your children are safe you are living in denial. Children are being assaulted in every community regardless of race, ethnicity, and economic status. To put this in perspective, think of ten children you know personally. Write their names down and circle one. Statistics indicate that one of those ten will be abused sexually or is currently being abused.
We are all enabling the problem by providing the blind eye sexual predators thrive on. Pedophiles and sexual predators (even other children) need private alone time with their victims along with access and trust (both parent’s and the child’s trust). A sexual predator will infiltrate their way into children’s lives, gain their trust and manipulate the child in to a sexual compromising situation. Then they use threats and fear to keep the child quiet.
Any parent who is saying right now, “well I would know if someone was violating my child” needs to learn about all the signs. The truth is sexual abuse often shows no physical signs like injuries, only internal mental and emotional devastation that may not show for years. If you are saying this does not happen in my community, think of the Catholic Church and State College, Pennsylvania. Both communities have been ravished by child sexual abuse scandals.
Darkness To Light’s Stewards for Children program gives us the tools we need to eradicate child sexual abuse in our communities and protect an estimated 400,000 children born each year. The ripple effect of these tools will save us money, lives, reduce crime, and even decrease teenage pregnancy (teen aged girls who are victims of child sexual abuse are 2.2 times more likely to get pregnant as a teenager).
Stewards For Children is a program that features 5 steps that help prevent and intervene if the unthinkable happens. The steps are:
- Learn the facts – We must learn the facts to escape the world of denial that predators flourish in.
- Minimize Opportunity− We must limit access of predators to our children and completely eliminate closed-door private interaction with our children by older children and adults.
- Talk about it− Talking to your children about sex, sexual boundaries, and good touch/bad touch gives children the power to protect themselves and builds the trust they need to report if the unthinkable happens. If a child has knowledge about their own bodies, what’s appropriate for a person to touch another and what’s not, it will become clear to the child and, therefore, they would be far less likely to be abused and more likely to report it when they do get abused.
- Recognize the signs− Often signs of sexual abuse are not visible and can be easily missed. So be aware of the signs that are present can be the difference in saving a child’s life.
- Act Responsibly− We are the adults and we must act in the best interest of the child. A child who reports is not making it up and must be handled by reporting the incident to law enforcement. How we react to the child’s report can set the stage for recovery and prosecution of the offender. A person is not legally liable for any good faith report that turns up false.
We must use these steps and act responsibly and calmly to any child who reports child sexual abuse, but most of all we need to act bravely and with only one thing in mind; the well-being of the innocent child victim. Remember, with intervention and treatment the child can recover and live a normal life.
If you would like more information about the Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children program please contact me or go to www.D2L.org. I am an authorized facilitator/trainer who can train your staff on the Stewards For Children program. The Training provides many benefits including 6 CEU’s for everyone trained in the program and a reduction of insurance costs. The most important benefit is the peace of mind that you are doing all you can to protect children under your care. We must take steps to protect our children and a staff trained in the 5-steps is a great start. Lastly, if you suspect a child you know is being abused please contact 911 or National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE.
These statistics are very saddening. I think we all need to more to protect our children. We should all be aware of the stewards for children. We know Many children are scared to speak up.