Volume XIV | Issue 2 | Fall 2014

Bringing light to a dark subject

Child abuse prevention program to be rolled out across the region

The statistics are startling. More than 10,000 Oregon children were confirmed victims of abuse in 2012. Of those, about 1,500 were sexual abuse. Nationally, experts estimate one in 10 children are sexually abused. More than 90% of the victims are abused by someone they know and trust. 

Child sexual abuse is linked to a host of societal issues including teen pregnancy, depression and suicide. Victims are three times more likely to have substance abuse issues, two times more likely to drop out of school, and are at greater risk for physical illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.

victims are most often abused by someone they trust

As a response to these alarming statistics, The Ford Family Foundation will partner with nonprofits across the state and in Siskiyou County, Calif., to deliver a nationally acclaimed training: Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children. [Review the Request for Proposals here.]

Adult’s responsibility

Stewards of Children is a two-hour workshop designed to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program emphasizes that child safety is an adult’s responsibility. It will be offered to organizations and individuals at minimal or no cost.

“In Oregon, many of our nonprofits, state agencies, and individuals work hard every day to prevent and fight child sexual abuse,” says Keavy Cook, senior program officer at the Foundation. “But the challenge is great. We see this program as a way to help.”

Over the next three years, the Foundation will work with organizations to train more than 20,000 adults in the Stewards of Children curriculum. The Foundation’s program will also train more than 100 facilitators to carry on the training in their own communities. 

The training, which is conducted by a facilitator authorized by the national organization, consists of the joint use of the Stewards of Children Interactive Workbook and training videos. Training can also be completed online, at d2l.org.

“This is not an easy subject, and some of the things you see may be upsetting,” warned facilitator Stacey Stonesifer at a Darkness to Light training at The Ford Family Foundation headquarters in Roseburg recently. 

The training uses a mix of survivor stories, expert advice and practical guidance to educate adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.

Five steps 

The first step the training identifies is to learn the facts: Most child victims never report sexual abuse, for example. 

Minimizing opportunity is the critical next step. Since at least 80% of incidents happen in isolated, one-on-one situations, being aware of gaps that allow offenders access to children is a necessity, as is the development of a code of conduct for organizations that serve children.

Abuse flourishes in silence, and Step 3 is to talk about it. Children are afraid to “tell.” Recognizing a child’s attempts to talk about their concerns and talking openly with children about personal safety and sex can make children much less vulnerable.

Step 4 emphasizes the importance of recognizing the signs of abuse. Physical signs are not common, but emotional and behavioral signals can be very revealing, including “too perfect” behavior, withdrawal, fear, depression, anger and rebellion.

And finally, the last step is to act responsibly. A child takes a huge risk in revealing abuse. It’s vital to give compassion, attention and belief. 

The Darkness to Light program sponsored by The Ford Family Foundation is scheduled to begin in 2015; for more information now, visit the organization’s website at d2l.org

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