Excerpt from StateCollege.com
One in 10 children will suffer some form of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light, a national nonprofit organization that raises awareness of and educates on child sexual abuse.
Using Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training program, Centre County is fighting that statistic.
By mid-August, 5,822 adults in Centre County ― or about 5 percent of the adult population ― went through the two-and-a-half-hour Stewards of Children preventative child sexual abuse training.
Darkness to Light encourages every community to educate 5 percent of its population to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, creating a foundation for widespread social change, according to a press release. The 5 percent tipping point increases the chance that every child in the county will come in contact with at least one adult who has taken the training.
“Five percent is a small, attainable goal that has a dramatic effect on community prevention efforts,” said Darkness to Light director of program Cindy McElhinney in a press release.
The 5 percent tipping point in Centre County comes after a three-and-a-half-year collaboration between the Youth Service Bureau, Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Centre County United Way and the YMCA of Centre County in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
After the Sandusky scandal came to light, “We all looked at each other and said, ‘What can we do to better educate our community on sexual abuse?’,” said Howard Long, CEO and president of the YMCA of Centre County.
The four organizations brainstormed on what they could do to create a “cultural shift” in the community, said Jody Althouse, director of outreach and communication at the Centre County Women’s Resource Center. The answer was Stewards of Children, which Long said was the only evidence-based program on the subject.
When the program first came to Centre County just over three years ago, the collaborated organizations reached out to schools, police departments, churches and other community groups.
“At first it was a real grassroots effort to get the word out, but once the word was out, participation was exponential,” Long said.
While the county has met Darkness to Light’s recommended population percentage, the organizations continue to offer the training to any interested adults through community training sessions, online or privately.
Putting the tipping point aside, Stewards of Children has benefited the community internally, with many adults who go through the training disclosing their own sexual abuse as a child for the first time.
“For some of them, they are getting help for the first time. This program is giving them a voice that they never had before,” Althouse said.
It is also changing the perception of the adults who go through the training. That’s 5 percent of the population that previously did not know how to protect a child who might be a victim of sexual abuse, or who to report the abuse to, Long said.
Read the article in its entirety here.