The workshop will be provided throughout the summer and into the fall on a demand basis, and will be available to anyone who asks for the program to be presented. The attendance fee is $10, which covers a workbook that is used during the program.
As a child, Starnes said, he experienced physical abuse. Though the abuse was not sexual, it has motivated him to educate the public to recognize when a child is being harmed.
“Wouldn’t it have been good to have people that were around who knew what to do?” Starnes said of his childhood experience. “We need to do what we can to get [an abused child] out of that situation.”
In order to lead the program, Starnes and Norton received training from Darkness to Light, a national organization whose mission is to empower people to prevent child abuse.
Starnes said that the training taught him that before a child has reached the age of 18, there is a one in six chance that a boy has experienced abuse and a one in four chance that a girl has.
Norton said that when Starnes suggested they receive training, his response was: “Absolutely.”
“As a [person with a] career in law enforcement, we always come in after the fact,” Norton said. “This gives me the chance to come in and educate the public, and hopefully stop it before it happens.”
Much of the program is a video called Stewards of Children, in which adult survivors of sexual abuse share their stories and experts specify warning signs that indicate child abuse.
Scotty’s House is a child advocacy organization that has served suspected victims of abuse or violence in the seven counties of the Brazos Valley since 1995.
Linda Patton, the executive director of the advocacy center, said that, for the past few years, Scotty’s House consistently has helped between 350 and 400 children a year. On Wednesday alone, the organization saw five cases.
Hunter Goodwin, one of the directors on the board for Scotty’s House, said that in the approximately five years he has worked with the advocacy group, he has been amazed by the number of local cases.
“It’s so distasteful that we don’t want to talk about it; we want to pretend that it’s not happening,” Goodwin said. “But the reality of it is that it is happening.”