By Toby Stark, executive director of Chaucie’s Place
Quit smoking. Lose weight. Save more money. These are New Year’s resolutions we have all likely made in our lifetimes; and resolutions we have likely broken by mid-year. If you are still pondering what changes you’d like to make in your life this year, I hope you will consider a resolution that is so important it will impact generations to come. I’m asking you to make a resolution – a commitment – to protecting your children; to protecting our children. Protecting our children, you may ask? Come on! I put my child in a car seat, I don’t let my son ride his bike without a helmet, and I tell my daughter to look both ways before crossing the street. Why do I need a resolution for that?
One in four girls and one in six boys will tell you that protecting our children is so much more than that. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. These child victims would tell you that protecting our children also means telling them they can and should say, “No!” to anyone who tries to touch their private parts. Protecting our children means telling them they should come to you if that ever happens, and you will believe them. And protecting our children means we learn the warning signs of child sexual abuse and make a personal commitment to act on a suspicion or disclosure of abuse.
Ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser. We can’t simply tell our children not to talk to strangers and be done with it. Parents and those who work with children must be able to talk about this within their homes and organizations and open the dialogue with children.
Youth-serving organizations must have policies and procedures that keep our children safe. Employees need to know what the law is and what the organization’s policies and expectations are. Additionally, employees should be trained regularly on child sexual abuse prevention, how to recognize the warning signs and how to respond appropriately to a suspicion or disclosure of abuse.
And parents should have the same in their homes. Everyone in the family needs to know what behavior is acceptable and not acceptable. Parents should also be trained on prevention, detection and response.
Parents and those who work with children can participate in trainings offered by Chaucie’s Place and other prevention organizations throughout the state. To learn more about protecting your children from child sexual abuse, please attend our upcoming Stewards of Children® child sexual abuse prevention training on Feb. 11 at the Carmel Clay Library. For a schedule of future trainings with Chaucie’s Place, visit www.chauciesplace.org.