Coaches Challenged to Go for the ‘Gold Standard’ in Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

Group challenges Ohio County coaches to get trained in child abuse prevention, mandated reporting

Coinciding with the start of the Winter Olympics on Friday, an Ohio County prevention group is asking local coaches to “go for the gold standard” in child abuse prevention by attending free training sessions.

Claudia Raymer, Ohio County Family Resource Network executive director, said she and her team of prevention professionals are calling the initiative the Gold Standard Challenge with a goal of training 60 coaches in 60 days. They want to help them understand their roles as mandated reporters of child abuse and provide them information to protect the children on their teams.

They are launching the Gold Standard Challenge now because of the timing of the Olympics and the recent sexual abuse case involving Olympics gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar.

“We want to acknowledge the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team and their bravery in bringing the abuse by the team doctor to light,” Raymer said, referring to Nassar, who was convicted last week of criminal sexual misconduct toward team members and sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. She noted, “Many of the victims did report their abuse, and adults failed them.”

“We want Ohio County to show that coaches do make child abuse prevention and mandated reporting a priority,” Raymer said.

West Virginia law states coaches, paid or volunteer, are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse, which includes neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. While they are mandated to report, the one-and-one-half hour training developed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia is not mandatory.

“I think there are parents who are volunteer coaches who may not have even realized they are mandated reporters,” Raymer said.

The training, “Making a Difference: The Mandate to Report, The Responsibility to Prevent Child Abuse,” covers signs of abuse, who must report, how to handle a disclosure, how to report, what happens when you make a report and prevention tools.

A free training is set from 3:30-5 p.m. March 8 in Ohio County. Additional free trainings can be scheduled for individual schools, sports organizations, gymnastic centers or other entities that provide organized activities for children.

In addition, Raymer’s Partners in Prevention Team is providing the evidence-based Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children sexual abuse prevention training for free. The two-hour workshop focuses on prevention and adults’ responsibility to increase knowledge and introduce protective practices.

Tom Rataiczak, Ohio Valley Athletic Conference executive director, said the conference supports the idea and encourages coaches to participate in the upcoming training, although the onus is on each school to make it a priority. He said he would consider adding the training to the annual OVAC athletic directors’ conference in October.

Janet Kowalski is the child advocate for the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center, where she works with children who are victims of sexual abuse or whose family members are victims. She sees immense value in these trainings for anyone who comes into contact with children, including coaches.

“Ohio County offers a wealth of opportunities for our children to participate in sports programs,” Kowalski said. “Challenging the coaches to understand their role as mandated reporters contributes to children’s overall health and well-being. Our responsibility to report even a suspicion of child abuse is paramount to any child’s physical and emotional safety.”

Raymer said the Ohio County Partners in Prevention Team has trained hundreds of people — mostly in the child care and social service fields. “More recently, we made a push to train summer camp staff and have been successful in reaching a majority of summer camps in Ohio County.”

She added that it has been more difficult to connect with local coaches in various sporting associations and organizations.

“Although sometimes we were met with interest, no workshops were scheduled by the coaches,” Raymer said. She noted some organizations said they conduct an internal training but she said she was told they are only about 15 minutes and don’t provide complete information from a certified trainer.

Even people who have been trained could benefit because the information has been updated and the laws have changed.

Cheryl Kaczor, extension agent with the Marshall County office of the West Virginia University Extension, has been a certified Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children trainer for many years.

“Once you attend a Darkness to Light training you get the information and hopefully it touches the core of who you are and you learn that it’s all about making changes in our environment and daily activities,” she said.

“It takes all of us working together. We can’t live with our heads in the sand and think this doesn’t happen, even right here in the Ohio Valley,” she added.

Said Raymer: “We all want children to be safe. We become disgusted, shocked, outraged when stories like Larry Nassar come to light. It’s time to take that outrage and turn it into action.”

She said that while this initiative is aimed at coaches, both workshops are available for free to anyone who works with children. She also can arrange for trainings in other counties.

To schedule a training or for more information, call Raymer at 304-232-5600.

——

WHO HAS TO REPORT?

According to the West Virginia code, mandated reporters include:

∫ medical, dental, mental health professionals

∫ youth camp counselors or administrators

∫ employees, coaches or volunteers of an entity that provide organized activities for children

∫ Christian Science practitioners

∫ religious healers

∫ school teachers and other school personnel

∫ social service workers

∫ child care or foster care workers

∫ emergency medical services personnel

∫ peace officers or law enforcement officers

∫ clergy

∫ judges and magistrates

∫ humane officers

∫ commercial film or photographic print processor

“Many of (Larry Nassar’s) victims did report their abuse, and adults failed them. …

“People need to ask themselves if they feel prepared to handle a child disclosing abuse to them. Do they know how to respond? Do they know what steps to take? We want to equip all mandated reporters with information to feel confident.

“We want to help them learn easy changes that can be made to prevent abuse within an organization, within a community.” — Claudia Raymer

COMMENTS