On Mon., Nov. 12, the Maryville New Hope Child Advocacy Center presented a free program to raise awareness about how to prevent child abuse. Raeann Bray, program coordinator, led the training in Lawson Auditorium on the Maryville College campus. According to the Stewards of Children website, this is “the only nationally known program, provided by trained facilitators, that has been shown to improve child-protective attitudes.
This training provides increased awareness of the prevalence, consequences, and circumstances of child sexual abuse and provides the skills to prevent, recognize, and act responsibly.” The training consisted of participating with an interactive workbook, active discussions and watching a video that covered a variety of subjects, including how to acknowledge the signs of child abuse and how to take action if child abuse is suspected.
Although the course did not provide all there is to know about child abuse, the program was informal and covered the basics of seeing the signs of potential abuse. The course covered seven signs to protect children. First, attendees were encouraged to learn the facts and understand the risks; people need to educate themselves as to what constitutes child abuse.
According to the Steward of Children handbook, child abuse is “any sexual act between an adult and a minor or between two minors when on exerts power over the other.” Another definition “is forcing or persuading child to engage in any type of sexual act. Besides sexual contact, it also includes non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or internet.” The second way to help is to minimize opportunity.
This simply means that individuals should not allow oneon- one sessions between a child and adult. Third, attendees were encouraged to discuss the subject with the child in question. If a situation were to occur where a child were abused, the child needs to know that they can speak openly to either a parent or a trusted adults. The workshop encouraged individuals to stay alert as the fourth step. The key to this is to make sure parents or adults notice any changes in a child’s attitude after going anywhere with an adult or older child. Bray noted how this step is harder than the rest because the signs could vary depending on the child. Common signs include “too-perfect behavior, withdrawal, depression, unexplained anger and rebellion.”
It is also common for some children show no signs. The fifth step is to make a plan. If a child confides that they have been abused have a plan that includes calling the right people and reacting the correct way. Bray advised attendees to react calmly when hearing surprising news and to above all, give the child support. The sixth step in the program is to act on suspicions. According to Bray, intuition is the best way to prevent potential child abuse. “If you feel like something is wrong, there is a good chance you’re right,” said Bray. The final step is to get involved. When all the steps are put together, it allows more aware citizens to educate others and it will prevent child abuse.
Overall, the program was an educational experience. The main focus of the program was to break the cycle of abuse by learning to speak up for children. For more information on preventing child abuse, contact the New Hope Child Advocacy Center at 865-981-2000.