Column: We must protect kids from abuse
As a community, we hope and try our best to keep our children out of harm’s way. Knowing we cannot be with them every second of the day, we teach them to look both ways when crossing the street, not to touch hot stoves or to play with matches.
We teach them not to talk to or go with strangers. We know that in preparing them to fly the nest we should encourage their dreams and aspirations and foster the belief that most people are good and trustworthy.
But then the news of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of female gymnasts, ice skaters, softball players, and others over decades comes across our radar and throws all of what we know about parenting and keeping kids safe into question. If a “trusted” doctor can sexually assault young girls, often in the presence of their parents, how can we ever hope to keep our own children safe?
As a society we must determine what makes some people want to harm children in this way. Predators will continue to seek out the best opportunities for approaching and being close to potential victims.
While we cannot be with our children every moment of every day, we can help arm them against the predators of the world. It is up to us — each of us — to learn how to keep children safe. When we know how to talk about sexual health, understand how sexual abuse happens, and report abuse and suspicious behavior, we can bring child sexual abuse rates in our communities to zero.
Team Zero Wayne County is a child sexual abuse prevention initiative led by Child’s Hope and the Kids-TALK Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), a program of The Guidance Center. It offers evidence-based prevention education for groups from all sectors of the community at no cost.
Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children is a two-hour, evidence-based course that teaches adults how to utilize simple actions that can have far-reaching, positive effects for children. This course is valuable for schools, businesses, faith-based organizations, and citizens at large. Talk, Protect, Report (TPR) is an hour-long program which focuses on key information adults need to know in order to be strong advocates to protect children from sexual abuse. Participants receive information on how to discuss sexual health with children and what to do if they suspect abuse.
Second Step: Child Protection Unit is a course for both school staff and students in early learning through 3rd grade where students are educated on how to keep their bodies safe and are empowered to speak up against unsafe or uncomfortable adult behavior. Many of the young women who were assaulted by Nassar spoke of these feelings, but were unsure if they should tell anyone or if they would be believed. By starting with children while they are very young, we empower them in the knowledge that their bodies belong to them and nobody has the right to victimize them in this way.
One incident of child sexual abuse in our community is too many. Child’s Hope and Kids-TALK CAC offer these programs to help keep our children safe. For more information about these and our other programs, as well as our April Child Abuse Prevention Month activities, please visit our websites.
Cindy Swift is president of the board at Child’s Hope. Kari Walker is president and CEO of The Guidance Center.