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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.

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

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

 

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

 

no-description-1577998It’s a topic that has come up often in our Allies in Prevention Coalition
Meetings: How do parenting topics and resources apply to those raising children with
special needs?
In many cases, families are all facing the same struggles —
how to discipline, deal with sibling rivalry, find childcare — but at the same
time there are unique challenges that deserve special attention and support.

This fall, SCAN worked with community partners to develop four new fact
sheets focused on parents raising children with special needs:

We hope to continue to develop materials for this parenting community (including translating these first four fact sheets into Spanish this spring), and we encourage parents to reach out for support from organizations such as:

For school support, also reference:

  • Virginia Association of Independent Specialized Education Facilities (VAISEF) – www.vaisef.org
  • Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (MANSEF) – www.mansef.org
  • DC Association for Special Education (DCASE) – www.dcase.org
  • National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC) – www.napsec.org
  • Definitely Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) – www.peatc.org

What other resources can we share to support this special groups of parents? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

light-person-woman-fire

Do you know what a “tipping point” is? Malcolm Gladwell’s book by the same name has championed the idea in recent years:

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

How exciting to hear that a fellow Darkness to Light partner — KIDS Center in Bend, Oregon — has reached a tipping point in their community, training 5% of the adult population in child sexual abuse prevention.

Here in Northern Virginia, a tipping point would mean 5% (or 115,000) of the 2.3 million residents would be trained. At SCAN, we’ve trained just over 1,000 people over the past four years, but we already have ambitious plans for the future: larger trainings this year in local school districts and agencies, a SCAN staff member becoming a facilitator trainer, and more facilitators available across the region. (Not to mention our friends at the Center for Alexandria’s Children who provide all trainings in Alexandria.) We’re excited for 2016, and will continue to be inspired by stories like this one from the D2L.org blog:

Excerpt from KTVZ.com KIDS Center said Monday it has reached a tipping point in creating new standards of child safety by training 5 percent of the adult population in our families, schools, and youth-serving organizations with Darkness to Light’s “Stewards of Children®” child sexual abuse prevention program. They said this lays the foundation for a proactive, communitywide approach to prevention and builds momentum toward educating and empowering all adults to protect children from abuse. Tipping points occur when issues gain momentum and ignite, and a …

Source: Crook, Jefferson counties at child abuse prevention ‘tipping point’

PIP-Seal-Orange-Updated-12-18-14It’s a horrific issue that we sometimes become immune to in our line of work as child advocates. And while we talk about it on a regular basis, a fog of silence weighs on most people in our community when it comes to child sexual abuse. Last week’s article by Sarah Chang in the Washington Post brings this silence — and its tragic effects — into perfect focus:

“During my first week as a federal prosecutor of sexual abuse crimes against children, one of my colleagues told me her chief coping mechanism: Turn the sound off when you have to watch a video multiple times. This advice scared me. I imagined children screaming, crying and shrieking in pain — the stuff of nightmares…

…But all I heard was silence. The 5-year-old girl said nothing — not even a sob. Disturbed, I continued to watch each video with the sound on. I tried to beat back the silence by turning the volume up as high as it could go. The quiet was too deafening, too defeating to accept. Surely, these children must make a sound?” [Read the full article here.]

Here at SCAN, we passionately believe that it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY as adult community members to be the ones making a sound in defense of children like the 5-year-old girl in Sarah’s article. Our work with Darkness to Light — providing trainings in child sexual abuse prevention training through their Stewards of Children program — is one way we can empower adults to break that silence in defense of the child victims in our community.

Ms. Chang’s article is a wake up call to those of us who might take silence as a sign of no problem:

Even though I encountered silence on many of the videos recorded by abusers, I decided that I would leave the sound on. Shielding my ears from the horrific acts done to these children would mute their pain and diminish my ability to give them a voice. One girl didn’t scream because her brother threatened to kill her. Another didn’t say anything because her father told her to keep it a secret. Regardless of what prompted it, the silence is deafening. It makes audible the psychological hold an abuser has over a child. Silence can be the most devastating evidence of sexual abuse; it can be the sound of pain itself. [Read the full article here.]

If you are ready to break the silence, contact us to learn how you can host a training in your community. Email Tracy Leonard at tleonard@scanva.org or call 703-820-9001 for more information.

Attendees included representatives from three local child advocacy centers: Center for Alexandria's Children, SafeSpot Children's Advocacy Center in Fairfax, and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center.

Attendees included representatives from three local child advocacy centers: Center for Alexandria’s Children, SafeSpot Children’s Advocacy Center in Fairfax, and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center.

This past week, SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition hosted a Darkness to Light supplemental training and panel discussion at Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library in Alexandria. More than 40 service providers came from around Northern Virginia for the meeting. What subject drew so many people? The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

The short video training from Darkness to Light started the event with a shocking statistic: more than 90% of children who are commercially sexually exploited have been sexually abused in the past. 

“Most of my work/agency work focuses on what happens after abuse occurs,” noted one attendee. “But I learned a lot about prevention and will be looking in to how I can incorporate this with children and families.”

The panel discussion after the video training included Detective Betty Sixsmith from the Alexandria Police Department, Besty Young from Prince William County schools, and Detective Cervantes Armstrong from Prince William County Police.

Being aware of the warning signs of child sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children is a key take away from the training. As Detective Armstrong noted “The grooming process…it’s all around us. We see it every day.” As service providers it is about learning how to recognize those signs and then take the action to prevent the abuse from occurring or continuing.

It is incredibly important to be able to recognize the warning signs and to have open conversations with children and teens. As panelist Betsy Young stated about victims, “They have a smokescreen and if you take the time to listen and connect with them, that screen fades.” Once you recognize and are aware of abuse you can take the necessary steps to provide support services and resources.

Resources & Support Services to be aware of:

Call to Action! What can you do to further awareness and education on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children?

  1. Attend a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training. Contact Tracy Leonard (tleonard@scanva.org) for a schedule of upcoming trainings.
  2. Host a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training to provide more education within your organization. Contact Tracy Leonard (tleonard@scanva.org) to schedule a training.
  3. Go to www.d2l.org and take the training online.
  4. Download our Human Trafficking Fact Sheet for Parents and share it with your colleagues and the parents and families with whom you work.

If you see something, say something. Be a voice for children.

D2L_1000trainedEarlier this week, we opened our Community Training Room to 10 adults for Stewards of Children, a child sexual abuse prevention training program from Darkness to Light. The class included parents, a lawyer, a nanny, SCAN board members, CASA volunteers, teachers and more. It was a perfect reflection of why we feel our work in child sexual abuse prevention is so important: It is EVERY ADULT’S responsibility to help protect EVERY CHILD.

That night marked an important milestone for SCAN: we have now trained more than 1,000 adults to recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse in our community!  What a perfect opportunity to share what’s going on in — and what others have been saying about — our work:

  • SCAN has given six trainings to hundreds of people this summer alone, with organizations ranging from summer camps and recreation centers to parenting groups and Head Start programs.
  • “Very great job,” said one trainee. “It was incredibly moving and great exposure to this issue.”
  • Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard and Executive Director Sonia Quinonez are the two approved facilitators on SCAN’s staff, but we also train other facilitators in the community and currently manage a group of about 10 across Northern Virginia, in addition to working with the Center for Alexandria’s Children to train individuals in Alexandria.
  • “This training was very insightful,” said another trainee. “It provided needed information to ensure protection from abuse of children in my life and those under my care.”
  • Darkness to Light is our national partner in this work, and has recently been in the news for its work with TLC in producing “Breaking the Silence,” a documentary on child sexual abuse following the unfortunate abuse that occurred in the family featured in the cable channel’s series 19 Kids and Counting. You can watch the documentary here.

1,000 adults trained. A reason to celebrate! Because we know that adults are the first line of defense – a primary line of defense. Primary prevention aims to prevent an injury before it occurs. In a recent D2L blog post, Paula Sellars, M.S.W., writes: “A safe adult is a trained adult.” We encourage you to read her full post here: http://www.d2lblog.com/2015/08/25/first-line-of-defense/#sthash.NvPhyeFB.dpu

And we invite you to consider when YOU will become a safe adult — and adult who will take on their responsibility to protect the children in their community. Be a part of the next 1,000 we train at SCAN! 

Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect, but if you are identified in the Code of Virginia (§ 63.2-1509) as a mandated reporter or you have received training in recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect – then you are a mandated reporter. Over the summer, we have trained mandated reporters everywhere from summer camps to childcare centers to schools.

As a mandated reporter, you are required, by law, to immediately report your suspicions to the local department of social services or to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. The purpose of mandated reporting is to identify suspected abused and neglected children as soon as possible so that they can be protected from further harm.

When should I report?

When you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected. You do not need proof.  You make a report when you suspect or have reason to suspect that abuse or neglect is occurring.  If you wait for proof, it might be too late.

What if I do not report?

If you, as a mandated reporter, fail to report as soon as possible but no longer than 24 hours after having reason to suspect a reportable offense, you can be fined.

What are my rights as a mandated reporter?

Under the Code of Virginia, a mandated reporter who either makes a CPS report or participates in a court hearing that results from a CPS report, is protected from criminal and civil liability unless it is proven that the person acted with malicious intent.

What if I am not sure abuse or neglect has occurred?

If you are not sure about what to do, you should discuss the situation with your local department of social services, child protective services unit, or with staff at the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline.

If a child has told you about abuse or neglect, this is enough for you to call.

What do you do when you witness an adult behaving aggressively with a child?

  • Avoid negative remarks or looks.  When you intervene, try to keep the conversation positive otherwise; it could make the situation worse.
  • Start a conversation with the adult to direct attention away from the child.  The goal is to start a conversation that moves the adult away from the negative interaction they were having with the child.
  • Divert the child’s attention.  If you can, talk about anything positive that the child is doing; use that as a way to start the conversation.
  • Look for an opportunity to praise the adult or child.  By finding a way to compliment either the child or the adult, you can potentially diffuse the situation and reframe it for the adult.
  • Use humor, experience or friendliness to break up stressful moments.  As long as it is done in a way that does not belittle either the parent or child, acting in a lighthearted way can offer perspective, a change of pace, or the reframing that can help diffuse a situation.
  • If the child is in immediate danger, TAKE ACTION.  If the child is at risk of being physically harmed or in need of any assistance, offer it to them as soon as possible.  This includes taking actions like calling over a security guard or calling the police if the situation requires intervention.
  • Make a report if you suspect abuse, a child has disclosed to you that they have been abused, or you have witnessed abuse.

REMEMBER:

When children have strong, healthy relationships with nurturing adults, they become safer, stronger & happier.

Positive adult-child connections are critical to keep children safe and nurture their growth and development.

Kids with meaningful connections are more resilient in the face of daily life challenges and even more severe trauma.

Still have questions?  Please contact SCAN or any of your local Child Protective Services offices to get more information, more training, and to dispel any myths that you or your staff may have.

  • SCAN: 703-820-9001
  • Alexandria CPS: 703-746-5800
  • Arlington CPS: 703-228-1500
  • Fairfax  CPS: 703-324-7400
  • Loudoun CPS: 703-771-5437
  • Prince William CPS: 703-792-4200
  • Manassas CPS: 800-552-7096

– 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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