Workshop Helps Illustrate Abuse Symptoms

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MIFFLINBURG — Sexually abused children don’t show many physical signs, said a Valley physician who works with these young victims. They have less-than-obvious psychological symptoms that easily can be written off to something else.
Helping adults see these signs is the goal of “Stewards of Children,” a free, two-hour interactive training session from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at First Lutheran Church, 404 Market St. in Mifflinburg.

Parents, guardians, any adult who works with or volunteers with children are encouraged to attend this workshop, sponsored by the YMCA. This is not, however, the mandated child abuse reporting training the state now mandates under law.
This is the first time the YMCA is offering the workshop in Union County, said Angela Haines, program coordinator with the county branch, but it has been done previously in Sunbury.

The program comes from Darkness to Light, a national nonprofit group that aims to reduce child sexual abuse through public awareness and education. It features five steps to protection, including learning the facts of sexual abuse, minimizing opportunity, talking about the issue, recognizing signs and reacting responsibility.
Workshops like Stewards of Children are important, said Dr. Pat Bruno, who has had experience dealing with kids who have been abused and neglected.

“In general, we all need to be more aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse,” Bruno said, because the symptoms of sexual abuse are a bit more difficult to discern. For instance, some children’s signs, such as depression, acting out or abdominal or chest pain, may be ascribed to other things.

Also, particularly in prepubescent children, molesters try not to physically hurt the child but will fondle them or manipulate them mentally, Bruno said. That can result in psychological damage, which cannot be found on a physical exam. “The damage is ongoing,” he said.

Detecting such abuse has become more pronounced since the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal. A law passed in the aftermath now mandates Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearances and Criminal Record Checks for those who volunteer with children; the FBI Criminal Background Check also is needed if the person has lived in Pennsylvania less than 10 years.

According to Darkness to Light, about one in every 10 children will be sexually abused before age 18. The odds are worse for girls, of which one in seven will be abused before 18. For boys, it’s one in 25 before that age. About 90 percent of child victims know their abusers, which also makes it hard for the child victim.

“Realize that most of these abusive situations are people whom the child knows and loves,” Bruno said, adding to the psychological trauma.

Many of these children suffer trauma severe enough to affect them into adulthood, according to Darkness to Light. These victims are three times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs and twice as likely to drop out of school, the group said.

“Abuse is a cycle, and the sooner you interrupt it, the better off the child will be,” Bruno said. “If you pick up on the signs and symptoms child might be showing, that’s all that much closer to getting help.”

Read the entire article here.

For more information on preventing child sexual abuse in your community, visit The 5 Steps to Protecting Our ChildrenTM, or take D2L’s award-winning Stewards of Children® prevention training.

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