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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!
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?
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.
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
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.”
“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
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.
It’s a new school year and we’re excited to launch a new menu of workshops for the community! We encourage ALL groups of people to consider a workshop — from nonprofits, schools and government agencies to parenting groups, employers and faith groups. Our workshops are based on SCAN’s existing child abuse prevention and advocacy programs as well as the expertise of SCAN staff. We can often customize workshops for the specific needs of a group, and most topics are available in English and Spanish, too!
So, how does your group want to be empowered this year?
We want to prevent CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION:
We want to support PARENT EDUCATION:
We want to engage our community in prevention through PUBLIC EDUCATION:
We want to GET TO KNOW SCAN:
We want to host a BROWN BAG SERIES for our employees:
Don’t see a topic here you would like? SCAN can customize and deliver a 1-hour workshop for $400. In most cases we can add concurrent children’s programming for an additional fee. (Download the full SCAN Workshop Menu here.)
How can we support your organization in its work this year to build stronger families, support parents and protect children? Contact us and let’s get something on the calendar!
Parents are constantly faced with the challenge of finding reputable, quality programming and care for their children. To help make decisions easier for parents and to put your organization at the head of the class, do you have a written and posted code of conduct? A code that lets parents–and children–know what they can expect from the adults who work or volunteer at your organization, how different situations are handled (one-on-one, toileting, transportation), and what the organization’s response is if child sexual abuse is suspected, discovered or disclosed?
Darkness to Light offers sample documents that you can use to begin understanding what should be included in a code of conduct, and that allow your organization to begin having discussions about procedures and policies that need to be in place to keep all children safe from child sexual abuse.
Codes of conduct do not have to be simply for childcare centers or afterschool programming. Every organization that serves youth in any capacity should have a code of conduct in place. It isn’t enough to simply write a code, though. A code of conduct should be prominently displayed and shared with parents. If parents begin to expect that all youth-serving settings have codes of conduct, then there will be a true shift in the way kids are protected from those who would try to sexually abuse them. If you work with parents, begin talking to them about questions they can ask an organization. Questions that will help ensure their child’s safety.
Here are some questions to start with, via Darkness to Light:
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
Darkness to Light has aspired to reach a tipping point with adults in their home state of South Carolina to make sure that they are “actively preventing child sexual abuse by training 5% of the adult population to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse!” This idea comes from The Tipping Point, a book by Malcolm Gladwell that says social change can occur if 5% of any given population is influenced to think and act a certain way.
So what does that mean in Northern Virginia? Our tipping point would be 115,000. Can we do that? At SCAN, we would certainly like to think that is attainable. We alone have trained 1,129 adults and have a network of facilitators across the region who are training even more. Other local organizations – including the Center for Alexandria’s Children, Arlington CAC and Quantico Marine Base Family Advocacy Program – also provide trainings in the area.
We realize at SCAN that we cannot do this alone. I am now a certified instructor with Darkness to Light, meaning I can train other facilitators to continue to build capacity in Northern Virginia to train even more adults in Stewards of Children. As of May 12th, there are now 7 more authorized facilitators who can help that number grow.
With 23 facilitators now in our network, it would take each of us training 5,000 adults in a year to reach our region’s tipping point. That might not be within our grasp this year, but we can certainly begin to make a dent and start tipping the scale. Will you help us? Have you been trained in Stewards of Children? Do you know of an organization, school, faith community or group of parents that should have this training?
Child welfare professionals like you can help us tip the scales! Not only to ensure change in the way adults prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse, but to help us reduce the instances of mental illness, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and school dropouts associated with child sexual abuse.
Please contact me to learn more.
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
[This Letter to the Editor was first published 4/20/16 in LoudounNow.]
Last week, I spent time with Loudoun County Public School staff providing a Stewards of Children training on how to recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, so the timing couldn’t have been better.
But we’ve actually been providing trainings in Loudoun and across Northern Virginia through our partnership with Darkness to Light for three years, and hit the 1,000-people-trained milestone in late 2015. We’ve trained camp counselors and parents, teachers and child care providers, faith groups and rec center staff.
This year, SCAN also is working in this region as part of the new Loudoun County Partnership for Resilient Children and Families. Our partners include an incredible list of influencers: HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, INMED, Inova, LAWS (Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter), Loudoun Child Advocacy Center, Loudoun County CPS, Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Developmental Services, Loudoun County Public Schools and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
When people—and organizations—come together like this to make children a priority, it is the only way change really happens in a community. Every time we can talk about the reality of child abuse (yes, it occurs in our community), every time we can empower an adult to take action, we have an opportunity to protect more children, prevent more abuse, and strengthen more families.
On April 26, our partnership will host an exciting opportunity in Ashburn. We’ll be screening the TLC documentary “Breaking the Silence” (See Facebook Event here), and facilitating a panel discussion following the film from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Briar Woods High School. We hope community members will join us to be a part of the discussion; child sexual abuse should not be a taboo subject and it is time we all became part of the solution. Now is your chance.
Tracy Leonard, SCAN of Northern Virginia