From Shock to Action: Moving forward to prevent child sexual abuse

Prior to the nationally publicized situation occurring at Penn State University, SCAN and the Alexandria CAC had scheduled training for local professionals in the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children ( sexual abuse prevention model. It is time for all adults in our communities to be more aware of child sexual abuse.

Awareness is the first step of combating this epidemic. Experts estimate that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays. All too often adults are in denial that this could ever happen in their communities. Yet the evidence shows that child sexual abuse does not discriminate. It crosses all cultural, demographic and economic boundaries.

Darkness to Light Stewards of Children focuses on empowering adults to make a choice and take action to protect “our” children. Protection can come in many forms:

  • Utilizing a prevention strategy, such as asking questions about the policy of one child/one adult time, can help to minimize the chances that sexual abuse may happen.
  • What happens though if you suspect that a child has been abused? Is your answer the same if you know the predator and/or child involved? Let your conscience be your guide. If you suspect a child might be being harmed in some way, be relentless in your efforts to get that child help and always play on the side of caution.
  • You don’t have to be sure it’s abuse to make a call. You can call your local Child Protective Services hotline to ask questions/seek advice. (Click here for a list of phone numbers in Northern Virginia.)
  • The widespread nature of this problem affects every human being. Victims of sexual abuse may have a lifetime of issues to combat, which may include violent crime, teen pregnancy and substance abuse. These issues lead to community social problems and affect all of us. Educate yourself and families you know! SCAN offers information and fact sheets on Sexual Abuse, Inappropriate Touching and Monitoring Your Child online at our Parent Resource Center.

As you gather during this holiday season with your family, friends and acquaintances, pay particular attention to the children around you. Approximately 90% of all sexual abuse cases involve a person known and close to the child/family.

Our focus at SCAN is on prevention. Due to recent events, we–as adults–are reacting to the sheer shock, depth and disbelief in this problem. Let’s begin to move into an action mode and become Stewards of Children, equipped and empowered to prevent child sexual abuse in our own community.

SCAN and our Darkness to Light partners will be organizing sexual abuse prevention trainings in Alexandria, Loudoun, and Greater Prince William in 2012. If you are interested in learning more about how you could obtain Stewards of Children training for your group, please email SCAN’s new Community Educator Sharon Crilly.