A New Book to Empower Kids, a New Tool for Child Abuse Prevention Work

As our work to prevent child sexual abuse pushes onward in our local communities, we are reminded of the mission of our national partner Darkness to Light: We empower adults to prevent child sexual abuse. We believe that adults own the responsibility to prevent child sexual abuse. They need to play an integral role in raising awareness of the issue with children andcreate safe, stable, supportive environments where they can be educated and empowered. That’s why we’re thrilled to share a new resource that might help.

Cindy Chambers and Kitty Kearns are authors of the book, Keep Me Safe: The Clapping Song. This is the first book in the Respect Book Series (available on Amazon here). The goal of the book is to communicate that with education comes empowerment, and all children should be taught to recognize an inappropriate situation so that they can—without reservation—ask for help from someone they trust.

The Clapping Song book is geared to children in grades PreK-5. It provides parents, educators, health-care providers, child-welfare workers and others with a useful aid for teaching children about appropriate and inappropriate touching. This phonological approach to broaching a sensitive, sometimes scary topic (through clapping) helps the child retain the information while reducing fear and promoting empowerment.

Three key points of Keep Me Safe: The Clapping Song that will assist you in starting the conversation about child sexual abuse are:

  1. Each of us deserves something called RESPECT.
  2. We are IN CHARGE of our bodies.
  3. We will NOT BE INTROUBLE; tell an adult that you trust.

1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. Sharing this book with a child can make a difference in one life. But more importantly—sharing this book with adults can create a ripple effect, where an increasing number of adults are aware of the issue and have tools to take action.

We know adults can take a more proactive approach to preventing child sexual abuse in our community and it’s tools like this that can help.

Great resources for work in child sexual abuse prevention:


Getting Comfortable with Our Discomfort: D2L Facilitator Training in June

Next month, SCAN will host a facilitator workshop for Darkness to Light, where we’ll train adults to deliver the Stewards of Children® training program to others in our local community. Facilitators model the core principals of the curriculum by talking openly about child sexual abuse and engaging adults in discussion, and are expected to schedule and facilitate at least 4 sessions a year. As we prepare for the June 6th training, we are reminded that as adults, we must “get comfortable with our discomfort” if we want to make a difference for the children in our communities. In a recent blog post, D2L’s Executive Director & CEO Katelyn N. Brewer wrote:

“Our inability to act on this issue can be summed up in one word: stigma. Individuals are scared to report due to fear of being ostracized. Friends and family silence victims in disbelief. Corporations are reluctant to associate their brand with an unfriendly cause for fear of what it may imply. Doctors are not required to educate new parents on their child’s susceptibility. Lawmakers are shy to propose bills which erode the statute of limitations. And with little funding available for organizations working to promote change in a scaleable way, we will remain a society that is afraid to address it rather than being afraid not to address it.”

We need more adults in Northern Virginia to be afraid to NOT address the prevalance of child sexual abuse in our community. We need to end the stigma, and training more facilitators is a great next step. Are there people in your organization who are interested in learning more about becoming a facilitator? Darkness to Light has a great overview of facilitator training and requirements here. Or contact SCAN and we can answer your questions and help you register!


A Goal We Can Get Behind: “4 Million by 2020” with Darkness to Light

Goals are important to set for so many reasons–they keep us on track, hold us accountable and help push us to our limits.  One goal that we can get behind at SCAN is Darkness to Light’s Four Million by 2020:

Imagine 4 million adults who have been trained in Stewards of Children! 4 million adults who can prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.  With constant messages and alerts in our news and social media feeds about children who have suffered from the effects of child sexual abuse, we have to be moved to action.  #MeToo, and #TimesUp have shed light on sexual abuse.  But what we are missing here is that these are adults who are coming forward and speaking out.  Most of the abuse they endured happened while they were children.  What if we protected children so that these victims didn’t have to speak out as adults?

If you or your organization has not gone through the 2-hour Stewards of Children training, or if you haven’t had the training in over three years, what are you waiting for?  SCAN has a network of over 40 authorized facilitators who can work with your organization’s schedule to get the training done.  Now THAT’s an important goal. Maybe it’s time for #NoMoreExcuses?

• CLICK HERE to learn more or schedule a training!


SCAN’s Response to Larry Nassar: What Every Adult Must Do Next

It is easy to look back at what happened to the over 100 victims of Larry Nassar and see who failed these athletes; Michigan State, USA Gymnastics, coaches and parents who didn’t believe their daughters.  But what if we never had to look back?  What if it had never happened?  I find myself sounding like a broken record yet again when I say it is not enough to hear horror stories about Larry Nassar, but we must DO something so that no other children are sexually abused.  So what can we DO?  Let me provide you with a list.

  1. If you see something, say something.  This catch phrase applies to everything these days.  You do not need to be a mandated reporter to make a report of child abuse (including child sexual abuse) or neglect.
  2. When a child (your own or another child who TRUSTS you) tells you that someone is hurting them, BELIEVE THEM.  On average, 5% of claims by a child are false.  That means 95% are TELLING the TRUTH.
  3. When someone is crossing a barrier with a child (ongoing tickling, inappropriate stories and jokes, closing doors, being alone with a child) speak up and let them know that behavior is not ok.
  4. Make sure that programs and activities that your child is a part of has policies and procedures in place that protect children.  Ask to see them.  If they do not have them, offer to help draft something.
  5. If you choose to allow your child to attend sleepovers at a friends house, ask the parents to show you where the kids will sleep, who else will be home, are doors left open or closed, will they have internet access in the middle of the night…Whatever questions you have – ask.  Whatever rules you would have for your own child – consider them when your child is away from you.
  6. Reduce or eliminate the times your child is left one on one with an adult.  Even if you know and trust the adult.  90% of children are sexual abused by someone the child knows and trusts.
  7. Have open and ongoing conversations with your children about their bodies, the parts of their body that others should not touch, and about sex.
  8. Take the Stewards of Children, Darkness to Light training.  Contact SCAN to set up a training with an organization you are a part of or with a group of parents who simply want to learn how to protect children from child sexual abuse.

Do not sit there and think someone else will do it, or I alone won’t be able to make a difference.  That could not be farther from the truth.  Chose one action and help protect children.  They are worth it!  And we owe it to them.

— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager + Authorized Darkness to Light Facilitator

The Tough Discussions Are Worth It: Helping Parents Talk About Child Sexual Abuse

As stories of sexual assault and harassment fill our newsfeeds, it’s critical that we talk to children about this issue and its impact. 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18, yet only a third will report it. As professionals, we need to be able to talk to the families we work with about what they can do when trying to raise a family in a world where sexual assault is a daily news story.  We need to empower parents and give them tools to use to address the issue with their children.

We’re hearing a lot in the news about high-profile sexual assault and harassment cases, which means kids are hearing about it too. How should parents handle it?

The age of the child should dictate how parents handle this issue.  For younger children, simply turn off the television and limit what they are exposed to.  For older children, parents should use it as a teaching moment – keeping open channels of communication, discussing vocabulary, and making sure their older children and teens know it is okay to ask questions.

It is also important that parents, or any adults for that matter, don’t normalize the behaviors and actions.

By opening up lines of communication with the parents we work with, we are helping end the taboo of sexual misconduct.  They will then become more comfortable talking to other adults in their children’s lives like caregivers, teachers, coaches, and relatives.

Much of what has been reported in the news has its basis in boundary violations.  It is important that we teach children about their boundaries and model appropriate boundaries when we are around children. Darkness to Light outlines this perfectly:

If you are a “bystander” who witnesses a boundary violation, or sees a situation in which a child is vulnerable, it’s not important to know the intentions of the person who crossed the boundary. What is important is that you reinforce the boundary – even if you are in front of others, or in a public setting.

Describe the Behavior:

“It’s against policy for you to be in the classroom alone with a student.”

Set a Limit:

“You need to take your conversation to the student lounge.”

Move On:

“I’m on my way there, now, so I’ll walk with you.”

The current news cycle has sexual assault in the spotlight, which means our kids are hearing about it. Instead of shielding them from the discussion, let parents know they should be the one to start it with them. It can be uncomfortable at times, but the hard work is worth it when it means parents can educate their children and establish a safe place for them to ask questions and share feelings in the future.

— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager: tleonard(at)scanva.org

My IGNITE! Experience—On the Road with Darkness to Light

I am writing this blog post fresh from the first Darkness to Light Facilitators Conference, Ignite! I was joined by 170 others from 32 states and 4 countries (including 4 of us from Northern Virginia).

The conference was a fantastic mix of dynamic and engaging keynote speakers, experts in specific content related to Stewards of Children, a panel who shared their lessons learned and achievements, and a chance to interact with others who are faced with similar challenges in engaging the community in such a tough topic. It was also a chance to meet some of the faces from the Stewards of Children videos including Tiffany Sawyer, Carol Hogue, Sylvia Goalen, Keisha Head and of course, Paula Sellers!

For professionals in the field, there were some key takeaways that I have to share. Here are my top 10:

  1. Jim Clemente, retired FBI Supervisory Agent/Profiler reminded us that we have to give victims hope. We cannot condemn them to silence and the inability to seek help.
  2. He also reminded us that we must find BALANCE in our lives or that which we love to do so much can kill us.
  3. Carol Hogue and Martha Tumblin, D2L Instructors Extraordinaire, challenged the facilitators to remember why we must take risks to protect children
  4. Kevin McNeil, Special Victims Detective/author/educator and MOTIVATOR, had so many good thoughts! Including: abuse destroys a child’s ability to make relationships and connections.
  5. We do not need to see abuse to act. When we see it, it is too late.
  6. Trauma freezes thinking.
  7. It’s not enough to listen to a victim, we must hear them.
  8. Abuse stops children from giving us the gifts they have inside.
  9. I am lucky to do what I do and to know it makes a difference.
  10. Memphis 2018, Ignite! I will be there. Let’s keep the flame lit.

There are over 10,000 Darkness to Light Facilitators throughout the world, 125 instructors (of which I am 1) and there have been over 1.4 million adults trained to become Stewards of Children.

But that isn’t enough: Darkness to Light’s goal is 4 million trained by 2020.

Will you help us reach that goal? I know Northern Virginia can play a huge role in making this a reality. If you 1.) have not yet been trained, 2.) know of a group of adults who need this training, and/or 3.) If you haven’t had the training in the last three years, please email me today!

— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager | tleonard(at)scanva.org

It’s Summer: What Are Your Go-To Resources for Parents?

For those of us who work with children and families, summer can bring fun — but also a lot of season-specific challenges. Families are on unusual schedules, parents are juggling the demands of new childcare arrangements and children are spending more time alone / on-screen or online / with new adults / outdoors and in pools. This week, we’ve gathered some of the questions we hear from parents and the resources we share most during the summer:


  1. Is it okay to leave my child home alone? There is no easy answer, so we’ve compiled some good questions for parents and linked to all of the local jurisdictions in Northern Virginia for their “official” supervision guidelines and information.
  2. Can I leave my child in the car if I’m just running a quick errand? We all know this answer – NO! Give parents our 5 Tips “Keep Kids Safe in Cars” fact sheet, which includes helpful reminders and simple steps parents can take when they’re in the car to prevent a tragic mistake. We also recommend the resources from Kids and Cars.
  3. My child is around water and outside a lot this summer — what should I know? Check out the Summer Safety page on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center for helpful reminders on everything from sunscreen and water safety to reading and monitoring your teens’ summer activities. Share the fact sheets for parents to post and refer to all season long.
  4. There are a lot of new adults (like camp counselors and coaches) around my child this summer — what can I do to make sure my child is safe and not at risk for sexual abuse? Parents (as well as everyone working with children!) should educate themselves about how to recognize, react and respond to the threat of child sexual abuse. Through its partnership with Darkness to Light, SCAN works with many local agencies and organizations to train groups of adults in its Stewards of Children curriculum. A good place for parents to start is the Learn about Child Sexual Abuse page on our website, and then explore the Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Take Action pages as well. (If you’re a child welfare professional, be sure to download our Northern Virginia Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Resource List in English and Spanish, too.)

Do you have more summer questions from parents in your community? How can we help?

(And don’t forget to download the FREE Parent Resource Center app from SCAN! It gives parents on-the-go access to every topic on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center from your Apple or Android device.)


The Movement to End Child Sexual Abuse — Are You Our Next Facilitator?

SCAN has known for years that Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children is an excellent curriculum for teaching all adults how to protect children from child sexual abuse.  We have trained close to 1,500 adults in Northern Virginia.  However, there is a wider network of Darkness to Light facilitators in Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland that is reaching and training even more adults.

Through our Public Education efforts at SCAN, we convene these facilitators twice a year to share best practices, roadblocks, and skills to become stronger facilitators.  In June, I had the honor of training 18 more facilitators.  Some will join our efforts here in Northern Virginia (The Young Marines, Northern Virginia Family Services, We Support the Girls, Falls Church City Public Schools), and others will take the training back to their organizations (which included Prince George’s County DSS, Prince George’s County Public Schools, and The James House).

Darkness to Light facilitators know that they have been trained using a curriculum in which attendees are able to immediately implement things they have learned, whether that is reducing one-on-one situations between children and adults, creating policies in our organizations that protect children, or being empowered to intervene in situations where adults are crossing boundaries.

Being a facilitator is a rewarding experience.  If you would like to become one, we will be having another training on August 10 in Loudoun County.  Register for the training here.

You soon learn you are a part of something bigger – a movement to end child sexual abuse. It can be done.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, tleonard(at)scanva.org


We Support the Girls: A chance to educate and engage

On February 11th, I had the privilege of being on a panel for a special community event put on by We Support the Girls, a local organization that “recognizes the need to support child victims of sexual abuse, beginning with the initial reporting, continuing through the legal process, and ultimately sustaining as victims and their families continue to heal.”


The main goal of the event was to increase community involvement in the prevention of child sexual abuse by encouraging community members to:

  • Become engaged
  • Learn how to be a part of stopping child sexual abuse in Virginia
  • Participate in a movement to protect all girls and boys in our state from child sexual abuse
  • Get energized to advocate for the passage/adoption of Erin’s Law (allowing for age appropriate education in the schools)
  • Find out what as members of the community can be done to support victims and empower survivors of sexual abuse

 The panel was moderated by Peggy Fox, WUSA News Channel 9 and included remarks from Congressman Don Beyer and Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol.  Joining me on the panel was Dr. Lyndon Haviland MPH, Darkness to Light, Jennifer Alvaro Mental Health Therapist, Arlington County Child & Family Services, Caitlyn Knittig Survivor/Advocate, and Angela Rose founder of PAVE.

Those attending the event walked away engaged and ready to advocate for child sexual abuse awareness for all of Northern Virginia.  As a direct result of my participation on the panel, I have two Stewards of Children trainings scheduled in Falls Church and have several adults interested in becoming Darkness to Light authorized facilitators at a training to be held in June at SCAN.  Others who attended the event were actively engaged in learning how to get Erin’s Law passed in Virginia.  As a panelist, I was able to talk about what barriers kept Erin’s Law from being passed this year in the General Assembly and also able to provide thoughts and insight on what we need to do in order to get it passed next year.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, tleonard@scanva.org

3 Facts on Child Sexual Abuse, Prevention and SCAN of Northern Virginia


  1. FACT: Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize.
  •   Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.
  •   About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
  •   This year, there will be about 400,000 babies born in the U.S. that will become victims of child sexual abuse unless we do something to stop it.
  1. FACT: Child sexual abuse often takes place under specific, often surprising circumstances. It is helpful to know these circumstances because it allows for the development of strategies to avoid child sexual abuse.
  •   81% of child sexual abuse incidents for all ages occur in one-perpetrator/one-child circumstances.
  •   Most sexual abuse of children occurs in a residence, typically that of the victim or perpetrator – 84% for children under age 12, and 71% for children aged 12 to 17.
  •   Sexual assaults on children are most likely to occur at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m. For older children, aged 12 to 17, there is also a peak in assaults in the late evening hours.
  •   One in seven incidents of sexual assault perpetrated by juveniles occurs on school days in the after-school hours between 3 and 7 p.m., with a peak from 3 to 4 pm.
  1. FACT: SCAN trained 213 individuals last year in the Stewards of Children curriculum, and we are scheduling trainings NOW for the year ahead across Northern Virginia.We need YOU to invite us to train individuals in the agencies, school districts, childcare centers, rec centers and faith groups in your community.

Ready to take action to protect children and empower adults in 2017? Contact Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, at tleonard(at)scanva.org for details or to schedule a training.