Even though 2020 brought countless challenges, the determination of adults to protect children has only increased over time, and we are thrilled by the progress in child protection we’ve seen over the fiscal year.
Instead of dying down because of overwhelming odds, child protection initiatives sparked like wildfires. Advocates reached new creative heights. Teachers and school personnel found innovative ways to reach vulnerable children and families without traditional classroom support. Child advocacy centers modified their procedures to continue to offer vital support and resources safely to those in need. Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitators stepped courageously out of their comfort zones to pioneer new training solutions that allowed the work of child protection to continue, even under the most challenging circumstances. And the results have been astounding.
A global catastrophe has not stood in the way of child safety and we know this…
… because more adults than ever have been empowered to act.
We launched our first prevention training 15 years ago, during a time when “abuse prevention” meant teaching children to protect themselves using concepts like “stranger danger” and “good touch.” By October 2020, over 2 million adults had taken responsibility for child protection by taking one of our abuse prevention trainings. Through a network of 12,000 volunteer Authorized Facilitators, we have changed the conversation and put the responsibility of protecting children on adults, launching education that has been used around the world to teach adults what they need to know to protect the children from abuse. It took us 10 years to train one million people. It took us five years to train another. During 2020, in under a year and throughout a pandemic, we trained 100,000 adults to protect children. Even in the face of global shutdowns, this is a movement that cannot be stopped.
In honor of #ChildAbusePreventionMonth in April, we partnered with the true-crime podcast Crime Junkie on an episode featuring the story of Peggy Reome – a woman who went missing for 12 years, her daughter’s mission to find her, and the intersection of their story with child sexual abuse. We provided issue-based support to the scripting of the program and a custom webpage for listeners to access more information on preventing abuse. Crime Junkie is one of the most popular podcasts on the market, boasting more than 30 million downloads per month. The podcast, and their parent company audiochuck, is passionate about using their platform to make a positive difference in people’s lives by using their time, money, and resources to advocate for victims and families.
In February, champion gymnast and advocate Aly Raisman joined Woodward Camps as the gymnastics Program Designer and together we have teamed up to create safer gymnastic experiences for young athletes. For more than 50 years, Camp Woodward has been the epicenter of the gymnastics community – one that includes more than 95 competitive gymnasts who have appeared on the world’s largest stages. A true leader in and out of the gym, Aly is not only a fierce competitor but also a champion for a safer and more positive gymnastics community. Woodward shares Aly’s commitment to athlete safety and have joined her in partnership with Darkness to Light to provide abuse prevention education to all staff through Stewards of Children® and are working with the Darkness to Light team to create a customized safeguarding plan that embeds prevention into both their organizational culture as well as the physical environment.
… because of the demand for new trainings + formats.
After a successful pilot, we released Stewards of Children® in a new virtual training format. Unlike our online training, virtual training allows Authorized Facilitators to guide a group of trainees through a discussion of the docutraining, just as they would in an in-person event. We’ve seen some exciting progress as a result of this new format. Facilitators are able to reach new audiences to protect kids in ways they’ve never had access to before! It has also allowed us to take the Facilitator Workshop virtual, so new facilitators can be authorized through a virtual workshop as well.
We partnered with the Special Olympics, with critical support from the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, to develop a targeted sexual abuse prevention curriculum that supports people with disabilities so they can lead healthy and safe lives. We launched the online training, Operation Safeguard, in November. The training supports Special Olympics’ commitment to advancing and strengthening the protection of people with intellectual disabilities from physical and sexual abuse.
“The future of child sexual abuse prevention is collaborative,” said President and CEO Katelyn Brewer. “By working together, we are able to make a bigger impact and ultimately keep more kids safe.”
In April 2021 we hosted our first virtual prevention conference, IGNITE 2021. Presented by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, the conference brought together sexual abuse prevention leaders from across the country for the common goal of making communities safer for children. In addition to the adjustment of adapting to virtual delivery of keynotes, plenaries, and networking opportunities, we also teamed up with the Moore Center for the Prevention of child sexual abuse as a content partner. Together, we offered IGNITE 2021 and the Moore Center symposium Child Sexual Abuse: A Public Health Perspective in a single event lasting three days. Founded in 2012, the Moore Center is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to creating a public health approach to preventing child sexual abuse. Over 250 attendees enjoyed keynotes from Rabbi Avremi Zippel, Rachael Denhollander, Alexandra Zarini, Dr. Helena Duch and Brigette De Lay, and Dr. Michael Seto.
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