What’s being done to teach children to avoid sexual abuse, you ask?
“Preventing child sexual abuse is a job for adults,” responds Debbie Rich, the chief executive officer of the Girls Scouts of Southern Arizona.
She’s emphatic: Our job, not the children’s.
And that’s why the Girl Scouts is partnering with the YMCA of Southern Arizona to offer a free two-hour online class that any adult can take to learn how to prevent sexual abuse of children, how to identify it if it’s happening and how to respond responsibly.
“This is different because this is for the entire community — not just for teachers or parents or cafeteria workers. It’s available to everyone,” Rich told us. “Anybody can go online, read through the program, answer the questions and get a certificate saying that they know how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.”
The online curriculum is the “Stewards of Children” program offered by Darkness to Light, a national anti-abuse group. There’s also a “Stewards” curriculum for groups that’s taught by certified facilitators.
Darkness to Light says that one in 10 children will be sexually abused by age 18.
The best way to have an impact on that disturbing statistic, Rich said, is to educate a substantial number of adults in the community.
We’re talking substantial: “If we can have 5 percent of adults in our community trained, it is statistically proven that it will impact early recognition of child sexual abuse — so that’s why our goal is audacious at 50,000.”
That’s not a typo: The Girl Scouts and the YMCA aim for 50,000 adults to complete the free online program. The partners also aim to train advocates in all of Southern Arizona’s nonprofit and child-focused organizations.
“If we want to move the needle, that’s what we need to do,” said Dane Woll, president and CEO of the YMCA of Southern Arizona. “We think it’s very doable.”
Rich noted that “reacting responsibly” to abuse is “the critical piece. This training gives you all the check points to know how to react” if you recognize abuse.
“And abuse can be seen in any situation where children gather — the classroom, the softball team,” she said.
There’s no charge for the online Stewards of Children classes because of the national YMCA’s relationship with Darkness to Light, Woll said.
The online classes are available to all of us free of charge until Dec. 1, 2015, Rich said.
“I would like to see all of our day care parents take the course, and people involved with youth groups, swim teams and such should keep an eye out for group classes” that will be scheduled in the coming weeks and months, he said.
Meanwhile, as Rich so emphatically noted, it’s up to the adults to protect the children. So go online and spend a couple of hours learning what you need to know in order to do that.