April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. As an early childhood professional, I’ve learned a lot of about abuse prevention in classes and training. I’m a mandated reporter which means since I’m in contact with children on a regular basis, I’m legally required to make a report when I observe or suspect a child has been abused. I can see that in the end, abuse affects everyone so everyone needs to be aware of ways to protect our children.
Thankfully I haven’t needed to report abuse while being a mandated reporter. However, my life has been touched by abuse in different ways. While the stories are not mine to tell, I can say abuse affects everyone. And it can have a lifetime effect. As stated on the Darkness to Light website, “The financial, social, and emotional costs are incalculable.” The effects of abuse are not necessarily physical, but emotional and behavioral and show up much later than when the abuse has occurred.
The reality is, child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences. — http://www.d2l.org/
Darkness to Light is a national non-profit with the mission to empower adults to prevent child sexual abuse. The video below is an introduction to Darkness to Light’s work to end child abuse.
The Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training is the most impactful training I’ve ever attended. The documentary style of survivor stories really makes this issue personal and unforgettable. I believe all parents should be required to participate and educate themselves about sexual abuse. No one thinks it could happen to them, to their child or in their community, church or family. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere. Abuse is often quietly hid and we deal with the effects of it instead of standing up and speaking out.
This stat may even be higher, I’ve been reading, when you break it down by male/female and age.
As a parent, I’ve learned to consider situations I’ve never thought about before. What if I send my child to a birthday party? Seems innocent enough. I know the parents a little, they seem like good people. All should be fine. But is it? Am I putting my child at risk? Yes, there’s always risks. Like the time I sent my son to a pool party with lifeguards present. He had some swimming lessons. I thought he was “old enough”. He was pulled out of the middle of the pool. Thankfully he was fine.
But what about sexual abuse? I might know the parents at this party. What about others who are in attendance that I don’t know – uncles, cousins, grandparents that might have histories or issues that I have no idea about? Am I putting my son in a dangerous situation? When our kids are young, we need to take every precaution with our children because as adults, we protect them.
What I took away from this scenario is to be careful about the situations I put my young son in. I’m not a paranoid person or over the top protective parent but I do consider what my son might encounter in each situation and if he’s protected or prepared for it. Even when he was younger, I would teach him about what was okay and what wasn’t. I talked to him and asked him if he was afraid of anyone, if anyone treated him badly or in a way that made him feel uncomfortable. These are conversations parents must have and connections parents must build with their children from a young age.
I remember a time when my son was very young. We had trusted people that we knew in our home. As I watched him play with these people, I thought, “I should never leave him alone with this person. It just wouldn’t be appropriate.” I had no reason to be concerned or fear but I determined it wouldn’t be right to put my child in that position. Years later I realized my instinct was right. Children are often abused by trusted family and friends, usually, a person the child and family.
But children are often abused by trusted family and friends, usually, a person the child and family knows well. Abuse happens when children are in situations where contact is one on one and secluded. Limit these opportunities regardless of how well you know the person your child is with. One of the best protections is our relationship with children.
As a child care provider, I need to protect myself and my family as well as the children I care for. Here are ways child care providers can be proactive:
How can child care providers prevent child sexual abuse?
- Create a safe child care environment.
- Know the facts about abuse.
- Know what normal sexual development of a child is.
- Engage families. Get to know the families you work with.
- Learn the warning signs.
- Be a mandated reporter.
- Create policies or rules to reduce risk.
- Teach children about safety. Provide information for parents to educate their children.
- Speak up if you have concerns.
What Can You Do Today?
- Take the online Darkness to Light prevention training. It’s 2 hours and costs $10.
- Read the 5 Steps to Protecting Our Children.
- Understand Healthy Sexual Development
- Learn the signs of sexual abuse in children.
- Learn how to respond when witnessing unsafe boundary violations.
- Read A Guide for Responsible Adults.
- Read more about abuse on Beauty Through Imperfection including: Teaching Your Kids and Preventing abuse, Helping Kids Who Have Been Through Abuse, and reading Survivor Stories.
Abuse Affects Everyone
It affects the abused, their families, husbands and wives, their friends, entire communities, society and the ripple effect goes on.
“We need to do something today, to protect children today.”