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On February 11th, I had the privilege of being on a panel for a special community event put on by We Support the Girls, a local organization that “recognizes the need to support child victims of sexual abuse, beginning with the initial reporting, continuing through the legal process, and ultimately sustaining as victims and their families continue to heal.”

16700629_787804918025391_4278902705935480055_oThe main goal of the event was to increase community involvement in the prevention of child sexual abuse by encouraging community members to:

  • Become engaged
  • Learn how to be a part of stopping child sexual abuse in Virginia
  • Participate in a movement to protect all girls and boys in our state from child sexual abuse
  • Get energized to advocate for the passage/adoption of Erin’s Law (allowing for age appropriate education in the schools)
  • Find out what as members of the community can be done to support victims and empower survivors of sexual abuse

 The panel was moderated by Peggy Fox, WUSA News Channel 9 and included remarks from Congressman Don Beyer and Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol.  Joining me on the panel was Dr. Lyndon Haviland MPH, Darkness to Light, Jennifer Alvaro Mental Health Therapist, Arlington County Child & Family Services, Caitlyn Knittig Survivor/Advocate, and Angela Rose founder of PAVE.

Those attending the event walked away engaged and ready to advocate for child sexual abuse awareness for all of Northern Virginia.  As a direct result of my participation on the panel, I have two Stewards of Children trainings scheduled in Falls Church and have several adults interested in becoming Darkness to Light authorized facilitators at a training to be held in June at SCAN.  Others who attended the event were actively engaged in learning how to get Erin’s Law passed in Virginia.  As a panelist, I was able to talk about what barriers kept Erin’s Law from being passed this year in the General Assembly and also able to provide thoughts and insight on what we need to do in order to get it passed next year.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, tleonard@scanva.org
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  1. FACT: Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize.
  •   Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.
  •   About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
  •   This year, there will be about 400,000 babies born in the U.S. that will become victims of child sexual abuse unless we do something to stop it.
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  1. FACT: Child sexual abuse often takes place under specific, often surprising circumstances. It is helpful to know these circumstances because it allows for the development of strategies to avoid child sexual abuse.
  •   81% of child sexual abuse incidents for all ages occur in one-perpetrator/one-child circumstances.
  •   Most sexual abuse of children occurs in a residence, typically that of the victim or perpetrator – 84% for children under age 12, and 71% for children aged 12 to 17.
  •   Sexual assaults on children are most likely to occur at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m. For older children, aged 12 to 17, there is also a peak in assaults in the late evening hours.
  •   One in seven incidents of sexual assault perpetrated by juveniles occurs on school days in the after-school hours between 3 and 7 p.m., with a peak from 3 to 4 pm.
  1. FACT: SCAN trained 213 individuals last year in the Stewards of Children curriculum, and we are scheduling trainings NOW for the year ahead across Northern Virginia.

    We need YOU to invite us to train individuals in the agencies, school districts, childcare centers, rec centers and faith groups in your community.

Ready to take action to protect children and empower adults in 2017? Contact Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, at tleonard(at)scanva.org for details or to schedule a training.

Last month, SCAN hosted its 5th Annual Speak Up for Children Advocacy Training, bringing together more than 40 attendees for a day of public policy education and advocacy training. Partners from Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and Voices for Virginia’s Children along with a diverse group of child welfare experts and elected officials led discussions during the day-long, interactive workshop. The group discussed effective advocacy tactics at all levels; critical legislative updates; and policy priorities for the upcoming 2017 Virginia General Assembly session. The training was sponsored in part by Verizon, and volunteers from Boeing also supported promotion, planning and facilitation of the event.

Wondering what Advocacy Day attendees are going to do next? Here are some of the action items they plan to take in th ecoming months, and you can do them too:

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  1. Attend an Advocacy Day in Richmond during the upcoming 2017 short session of the Virginia General Assembly.
  2. Work towards having Erin’s Law passed in Virginia. Read an article on Erin’s Law, including comment from Advocacy Day guest Senator Jennifer Wexton, here.
  3. Share advocacy information with others in your network. Voices for Virginia’s Children has some excellent 2017 Tools for Advocates available here.
  4. Call, write and visit your legislators. Find out who your local legislators are here.
  5. Support the families you serve in our programs. One way to support them is by finding creative ways to share their stories with your legislators!
  6. Work with other organizations, across issues, to encourage more progress. Legislators told us again and again that the more cooperation and work they see behind an issue, the easier it is for them to bring attention to it! You can learn more about SCAN’s policy focus in the comine year here, and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia shares specific Bills they are following (along with many other useful advocacy tools!) here.
  7. Thank your political representative for working on behalf of children. (See number 4 above.)

You can download an overview of Advocacy Day here, or visit SCAN’s Advocacy page on our website here for more resources from the day, including a Legislative Glossary, Intro to the VA General Assembly and a Self-Assessment tool!

It’s a new school year and we’re excited to launch a new menu of workshops for the community! We encourage ALL groups of people to consider a workshop — from nonprofits, schools and government agencies to parenting groups, employers and faith groups. Our workshops are based on SCAN’s existing child abuse prevention and advocacy programs as well as the expertise of SCAN staff. We can often customize workshops for the specific needs of a group, and most topics are available in English and Spanish, too!

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So, how does your group want to be empowered this year?

We want to prevent CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION:

  • Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children2 hours, $25 per person (minimum 10, maximum 25 people)
  • Talking with Children about Safety from Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Healthy Touch for Children & Youth, 45 minutes, $150
  • Bystanders Protecting Children from Boundary Violations & Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, 1 hour, $200
  • Child Sexual Abuse for Parents, 1 hour, $150

We want to support PARENT EDUCATION:

  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today, 1 hour, $200
  • How to Connect with Your Child and Build a Resilient Family (Managing Family Stress), 1 hour, $200
  • Wait, My Kid Has a Date?, 1 hour, $200
  • Positive Discipline: Raising Children with Self Control, 1 hour, $200
  • Tech Savvy Parenting/Internet Seguro, 1 hour, $200
  • Families Reunite (Immigrant Family Reunification, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500
  • Made in America: Padres Hispanos Criando Hijos Americanos (Immigrant parents raising children in the US, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500

We want to engage our community in prevention through PUBLIC EDUCATION:

We want to GET TO KNOW SCAN:

  • All About SCAN, @ SCAN
  • How YOU Can Help Prevent Child Abuse in Your Community
  • SCAN Volunteer Orientation, monthly – click link for more information and upcoming dates

We want to host a BROWN BAG SERIES for our employees:

  • Strategies for the Working Parent: Customize a parenting topic to compliment your human resource efforts in your office and offer support to your employees.

Don’t see a topic here you would like? SCAN can customize and deliver a 1-hour workshop for $400. In most cases we can add concurrent children’s programming for an additional fee. (Download the full SCAN Workshop Menu here.)

How can we support your organization in its work this year to build stronger families, support parents and protect children? Contact us and let’s get something on the calendar!

 

Parents are constantly faced with the challenge of finding reputable, quality programming and care for their children.  To help make decisions easier for parents and to put your organization at the head of the class, do you have a written and posted code of conduct?  A code that lets parents–and children–know what they can expect from the adults who work or volunteer at your organization, how different situations are handled (one-on-one, toileting, transportation), and what the organization’s response is if child sexual abuse is suspected, discovered or disclosed?

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Darkness to Light offers sample documents that you can use to begin understanding what should be included in a code of conduct, and that allow your organization to begin having discussions about procedures and policies that need to be in place to keep all children safe from child sexual abuse.

Codes of conduct do not have to be simply for childcare centers or afterschool programming.  Every organization that serves youth in any capacity should have a code of conduct in place.  It isn’t enough to simply write a code, though.  A code of conduct should be prominently displayed and shared with parents.  If parents begin to expect that all youth-serving settings have codes of conduct, then there will be a true shift in the way kids are protected from those who would try to sexually abuse them.  If you work with parents, begin talking to them about questions they can ask an organization.  Questions that will help ensure their child’s safety.

Here are some questions to start with, via Darkness to Light:

  • Are parents encouraged to drop in at any time?
  • Can parents tour the facilities?
  • Are your staff and volunteers trained in sexual abuse prevention and response?
  • Do you have a code of conduct?  May I have it?
  • How are your policies disseminated and to whom?
  • Are the children aware of the rules?
  • How are older youth screened, monitored and supervised?
  • Do you train, allow and empower your staff and volunteers to report suspicions of sexual abuse?
  • If a staff member or volunteer violates the child sexual abuse prevention policy, what procedures and penalties follow?

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

“It was the easiest thing to do. It’s a natural way to introduce not only the issue of child sexual abuse to the community, but Stewards of Children® and Darkness to Light too.”

logostate-2Last week, SCAN’s Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard was interviewed for a post over at the Darkness to Light blog. SCAN is an official Partner in Prevention with Darkness to Light (D2L), bringing its Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training to communities across Northern Virginia.

Tracy gave insight on recent film screenings SCAN hosted with partners in Alexandria and Loudoun, an easy way to spark important discussion about child sexual abuse in a community.

Is your community ready to talk about child sexual abuse? We think every community NEEDS to be. Get inspired by reading Tracy’s full D2L blog interview here.

Then contact SCAN and we can help you start the discussion!

Darkness to Light has aspired to reach a tipping point with adults in their home state of South Carolina to make sure that they are “actively preventing child sexual abuse by training 5% of the adult population to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse!”  This idea comes from The Tipping Point, a book by Malcolm Gladwell that says social change can occur if 5% of any given population is influenced to think and act a certain way.

D2Lblog_May2016So what does that mean in Northern Virginia?  Our tipping point would be 115,000.  Can we do that?  At SCAN, we would certainly like to think that is attainable.  We alone have trained 1,129 adults and have a network of facilitators across the region who are training even more. Other local organizations – including the Center for Alexandria’s Children, Arlington CAC and Quantico Marine Base Family Advocacy Program – also provide trainings in the area.

We realize at SCAN that we cannot do this alone.  I am now a certified instructor with Darkness to Light, meaning I can train other facilitators to continue to build capacity in Northern Virginia to train even more adults in Stewards of Children. As of May 12th, there are now 7 more authorized facilitators who can help that number grow.

With 23 facilitators now in our network, it would take each of us training 5,000 adults in a year to reach our region’s tipping point.  That might not be within our grasp this year, but we can certainly begin to make a dent and start tipping the scale.  Will you help us?  Have you been trained in Stewards of ChildrenDo you know of an organization, school, faith community or group of parents that should have this training? 

Child welfare professionals like you can help us tip the scales! Not only to ensure change in the way adults prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse, but to help us reduce the instances of mental illness, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and school dropouts associated with child sexual abuse.

Please contact me to learn more.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

 

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[This Letter to the Editor was first published 4/20/16 in LoudounNow.]

Last week, I spent time with Loudoun County Public School staff providing a Stewards of Children training on how to recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

But we’ve actually been providing trainings in Loudoun and across Northern Virginia through our partnership with Darkness to Light for three years, and hit the 1,000-people-trained milestone in late 2015. We’ve trained camp counselors and parents, teachers and child care providers, faith groups and rec center staff.

This year, SCAN also is working in this region as part of the new Loudoun County Partnership for Resilient Children and Families. Our partners include an incredible list of influencers: HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, INMED, Inova, LAWS (Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter), Loudoun Child Advocacy Center, Loudoun County CPS, Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Developmental Services, Loudoun County Public Schools and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

When people—and organizations—come together like this to make children a priority, it is the only way change really happens in a community. Every time we can talk about the reality of child abuse (yes, it occurs in our community), every time we can empower an adult to take action, we have an opportunity to protect more children, prevent more abuse, and strengthen more families.

On April 26, our partnership will host an exciting opportunity in Ashburn. We’ll be screening the TLC documentary “Breaking the Silence” (See Facebook Event here), and facilitating a panel discussion following the film from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Briar Woods High School. We hope community members will join us to be a part of the discussion; child sexual abuse should not be a taboo subject and it is time we all became part of the solution. Now is your chance.

Tracy Leonard, SCAN of Northern Virginia

[This Letter to the Editor first appeared on 4/20 in LoudounNow. Learn more about the event on SCAN’s website here.]

wood-light-fashion-peopleSCAN’s volunteers have varied backgrounds in both experience and culture but are brought together because of a shared commitment to our mission.  One such volunteer is Emma Pazos.  She is a part of our newest CASA volunteer group going through training right now.  And although she has not yet been assigned a CASA case (this new class will be sworn-in next month), she has already made an impact that I am not sure she even realizes. Which is why we wanted to take time to learn more about her story…

Emma was driven to find a volunteer opportunity that helped children who were abused, which is how she found SCAN. She wanted to do something meaningful – “to help children in the healing process, and help them to change their lives – a better future without pain, and a chance to have a normal childhood.”

Once she was accepted into the training program for CASA volunteers, Emma wanted more!  She asked about bringing a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training to a small group at her place of work.  Emma “wanted to create consciousness in other people. It is a team effort. Children can’t do it alone. People need to be aware of this societal problem.”  So she decided to begin with the adults closest to her, her co-workers. I asked Emma how her co-workers felt about the training.

“They liked it a lot and they felt great to learn about this,” she said. “In fact, a co-worker told me that she has shared some tips with her brother in Germany who has a seven-year-old kid, and other co-workers are using the techniques learned in the training to talk with their children.”

I also asked Emma how CASA training is going:

“It is going great. It is really enriching to hear the different speakers and topics associated with this problem. It opens your mind and makes you understand the mission we all have to protect children and all the parties that participate in this process…

I am so thankful for CASA because they are giving me this wonderful opportunity to help children. I strongly believe that it is going to change my life, as well.” 

Emma knows she will have an impact on children as a CASA volunteer.  She says “I will contribute to change a child’s present life for a better future, for a permanent home. It is a great responsibility because our reports will make a great impact in the judge’s decision, as well. Hopefully, step-by-step, we can make a difference for them forever. I can’t wait to pass the final interview, and be ready for the fieldwork!”

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

 

Some might call Erin Merryn a survivor, an advocate, a hero, or all three. 8858368_orig

Erin Merryn is a remarkable, brave young woman.  She is the drive behind Erin’s Law, which “requires age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education in grades Pre-kindergarten through 12 along with training school staff on the prevention of sexual abuse.” As of June 2015, 26 states have passed Erin’s Law.

Simply teaching a child about stranger danger and good touch/bad touch is not enough.  1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday and 90% will be sexually abused by someone they know and trust.  These two statistics alone make the school setting a natural place for children to learn how to speak up if someone – anyone – is crossing safe boundaries or inappropriately touching them.  It also makes school faculty and staff the perfect audience to be taught how to protect children and how to respond if a student discloses sexual abuse.

The best protection we can give the children in our lives is to have open and honest conversations with them and, according to Erin’s website, “Erin’s Law empowers children with their voice instead of allowing sex offenders to silence them.”

If you are a school faculty or staff member and haven’t  been trained in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children please contact me.  Let’s start a movement in Northern Virginia where any child can report to any trusting adult at school when they feel unsafe or someone has crossed boundaries.  Let’s make sure that children know the trusting adult knows how to respond and can prevent others from being harmed.

(For more about Erin Merryn and Erin’s Law, read this profile from The Washington Post.)

To see Erin’s story: Attend a screening of Breaking the Silence on April 12th at the Nannie J. Lee Rec Center in the City of Alexandria or on April 26th at Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County.  For more information about these special local screenings during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, please email me at tleonard@scanva.org.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

 

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SCAN works to build hope for children and families in Northern Virginia. This blog brings child welfare professionals the current trends and valuable resources that will support their work to prevent child abuse and strengthen families in Northern Virginia and beyond.

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