Did you know that York County is 3rd in the state for the number of reported child sexual abuse cases? I know, it's a difficult thing to talk about. I am not here to scare you. I want to spread the word about how you can make a difference by attending a free training where you will learn to protect children from sexual abuse with 5 simple steps.
I recently attended the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative, Stewards of Children®, prevention training that aims to help community members make a difference in a positive way. I promise this is not a tear-jerking sharing of stories, it is an evidence-based training that made me feel informed and empowered to make a difference in our community. The training was about 2 hours and included a two-part DVD presentation that followed an interactive workbook.
There were statistics shared that I found to be startling, like, 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday and over 90% of them will know their abuser. After hearing that, I took a mental note to talk to my children that while we should still have a sense of stranger danger, we should also always have conversations about anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable - even if they are a family member or family friend.
I also had another thought-provoking moment when we discussed eliminating isolated, one-on-one situations between other adults and our children. I had to think of times that my children may be alone with an adult, like at the nurse's office at school (and what is their protocol for times of isolation), sleepovers, and at extracurricular activities.
I believe all parents and community members that have any contact with children would benefit from the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative. This community training is a pilot program of Penn State University and is free to anyone who lives or works in York County. It is offered both in person and online. If you are interested in taking the training please click here for more information. You can also call 717.718.4253 ext. 103 if you wish to schedule an in-person workshop, see about bringing the workshop to your location, or talk more about child sexual abuse.
What should I do if I suspect child sexual abuse?
Make a good faith report to authorities. This means that you have reasonable suspicion that abuse is occurring. You do not need to have all the details and you never need proof. You can call CHILDLINE at 1-800-932-0313 or any Law Enforcement Agency at 911.
What should I do if a child discloses sexual abuse to me?
- Remain calm.
- Conduct a "minimal fact" interview by asking non-leading, open-ended questions like, "Then what happened?" Do not probe for details.
- Do say encouraging statements like, "I believe you" and "it is not your fault."
- Do tell law enforcement immediately.
- Please know, false sexual abuse reports made by children are rare. Our job as parents and citizens is to report and not to investigate. Asking the child too many questions may cause distress or can interfere with professional questioning/prosecution later.
- Do not alert the abuser or parents before calling law enforcement. Law enforcement will take care of contacting parents and abuser at the appropriate time.