April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. However, preventing child abuse and being aware of the signs is something all adults should do all year long.
Child sexual abuse is not something that happens randomly. Fannin County Children’s Center’s Executive Director Sandy Barber said there are actually many things parents and other adults can do to prevent child sexual abuse.
When checking out day cares, schools, camp or other activities for your children, Barber encourages parents to ask questions. “Do they do background checks, reference checks and personal interviews with every staff and volunteer?” said Barber. “Also ask how often they train their personnel in how to recognize and report child abuse as well as what policies they have in place to protect against child sexual abuse.”
“Most importantly, ask the organization what their policy is on one-adult one-child situations,” said Barber. Organizations that eliminate or reduce to the greatest extent possible one-adult one-child situations will greatly reduce the opportunity for sexual abuse to happen.
With young children who need diapers changed or assistance going to the bathroom, Barber encourages parents to ask questions about how and where that happens at the day care or other locations. All interactions between adults and children or even older youth and young children should be observable and interruptible by others.
Parents should also begin talking to children about child sexual abuse when their children are very young. As young children learn to identify their eyes, ears, nose and other body parts, it a great time to also learn the proper names for their private parts. As the child grows, the conversations should change and grow too.
“One way to explain it,” said Barber “is that the parts of your body covered up by your bathing suit are your private parts. If anyone tries to touch you on your private parts or asks you to touch their private parts, tell them “no,” get away from them and go tell a parent or other trusted adult.”
It is also important to explain to children that the person could be a family member, close friend or even an older youth.
“There are also several books available to read to your child that will help open up a conversation about this topic,” said Barber. “Two books that we like at the Children’s Center are “It’s My Body” and “Your Body Belongs to You.” These books are simple, straight forward and inexpensive.”
Barber stressed that it is important to read the book and/or talk about this subject more than once with a child. “Think about teaching your child how to say the alphabet or count, you cannot go over it once and expect them to know it,” said Barber. “Repetition is important.”
The Children’s Center also offers two types of free classes for adults. “Recognizing and Reporting” is a 1.5 hour class that covers recognizing the signs of child abuse and the steps of how to report it. “Stewards of Children” is a 3 hour class that focuses solely on sexual abuse and covers preventing, recognizing and responding appropriately. Classes will be scheduled soon and announced one the center’s website and social media. Details and registration links will be posted on the agency website here