In light of the arrest of a Wheeling Park High School senior on charges of sexually abusing two girls ages 8 and 10, a local child sexual abuse prevention trainer encourages parents and other adults that work with youth to consider their roles in preventing such abuse.
Cheryl Kaczor, of the West Virginia University Extension-Marshall County office, said the point of the prevention program she offers is to impress upon adults to take responsibility for protecting children.
"It's saying, 'What can we do?'" she said.
"Children are often taught how to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse - and that's important for them to learn -but it's no substitute for adult responsibility," according to Darkness to Light, the program Kaczor is trained to present. "We make sure children wear seat belts. We walk them across busy streets. We store toxic household cleaners out of reach. Why, then, would we leave the job of preventing child sexual abuse solely to children?"
The training also "restores power" to adults, Kaczor said, not only by educating them but also by encouraging them to speak up in their communities about sexual abuse.
"Talk about it. Let's not pretend it doesn't exist in our communities. Talking about it restores our personal power. You put potential abusers on notice. You offer support to adults whose children experienced abuse," said Kaczor, whose training was paid for by the Ohio County Partners in Prevention. The group is sending Kate Monroe of Harmony House Children's Advocacy Center to receive the same training later this month.
Darkness to Light's '7 Steps to Protecting Our Children'
Step 1: Learn the Facts
Step 2: Minimize Opportunity
Step 3: Talk About It
Step 4: Stay Alert
Step 5: Make a Plan
Step 6: Act on Suspicions
Step 7: Get Involved
For more information about each step, visit www.d2l.org. For local training opportunities, call Cheryl Kaczor, WVU Extension, 304-843-1170.
Kaczor noted several statistics:
- One in four girls and one in four boys is sexually abused by the age of 18.
- Sixty percent of abusers are someone the family trusts.
- Ninety percent of abusers are known to the victim.
- Forty percent of victims are abused by older or larger children.
- Of those, more than 50 percent are under age 12.
"The statistics also are higher for boys to be perpetrators," Kaczor said.
One of the seven steps in the Darkness to Light training program is "minimize opportunity." Kaczor said in light of the statistics, this means, for example, "you don't ask a teenage boy to babysit. You just don't."
To inquire about local trainings, call Kaczor, 304-843-1170.