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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.

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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.]

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

 

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.

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! 

A new report from the Human Rights Projects for Girls and Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality calls for an overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system “to identify and treat sexual abuse trauma that lies at the root of victimized girls’ arrests, particularly girls of color.”

This summer, we’ve trained HUNDREDS of adults in how to recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse through our standing as “Partner in Prevention” with Darkness to Light. We know those individuals trained will go out into our Northern Virginia communities to keep childhood safe for many. But we also know child sexual abuse prevention goes well beyond childhood – that this is about creating a community where girls and boys and grown men and women can thrive.

This article gives excellent insight as to how child sexual abuse in years past relates to women in prison today: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/10/us-usa-justice-girls-idUSKCN0PK19I20150710

When you hear about child sexual abuse, many thoughts might go through your mind:

“They should go to jail.”

“Parents should keep a closer eye on their children.”

“Who would do that to a child?”

These statements distance us further from what has happened.  These thoughts make it easier to dismiss the sexual abuse because it happened to someone else – whether with celebrity status, or it happened a long time ago, or it happened within a certain institution.  We believe it will never happen to the children that we know.

We need to shift our thinking though because 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday and 90% of victims are abused by someone they know and trust.  The thought that goes through your mind should be, “What can I do to prevent it from happening in the first place?”  As parents, professionals, or simply members of the community, we need to learn to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse, react when child sexual abuse is disclosed, and respond.  We also need to learn how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

In the case of Josh Duggar, it appears that not only those who are considered mandated reporters failed in their job, but other adults who were aware of what happened, including his parents.  So what exactly is a “mandated reporter”?  According to our national partner Darkness to Light, “A mandated reporter is one who is required by law to report reasonable suspicions of abuse. Mandated reporters typically include social workers, teachers, health care workers, child care providers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, among others but keep in mind that some states designate all citizens as mandated reporters. Regardless of specific mandated reporters, all persons can and should always reports suspected abuse. It is the job of all adults to protect children.”

It is not the job of a child to protect themselves from strangers or from bad things happening to them.  It is the responsibility of the adults in a child’s life to do that.  And if a child is sexually abused, or is the one sexually abusing other children, we must know how to react and respond.

“40% of child sexual abuse is by an older, more powerful youth” — www.d2l.org

Do you know how to recognize, react and respond?  Within the last 3 years, SCAN has trained over 825 Northern Virginia community members to be Stewards of Children using the curriculum created by Darkness to Light.  They know how to recognize, react, and respond.  Shouldn’t you?

If you are interested in becoming trained or organizing a training within your organization, please contact me. We cannot do this alone. Children need all of us.

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

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Last week, our national partner Darkness to Light posted a guest blog by Svava Brooks, a child sexual abuse survivor and prevention advocate. We’re sharing it here today because it paints an excellent picture of how simple, necessary and courageous it can be to protect the children in our families and communities when we notice something that doesn’t quite feel right:

(Originally posted at d2lblog.com)

“I have trained thousands of adults and provided facilitator trainings for D2L in three countries. Not only do I teach others about child sexual abuse, but I also practice what I teach. And I’ve had several opportunities.

The most challenging occurred at a gathering of family and friends in my home. One of the older men suddenly touched my daughter in an inappropriate way. She had been sitting on the couch, talking to this man. When my daughter stood up to leave, the man reached over and smacked her on the butt. Before you decide that I overreacted, I want to let you know that before this moment, this man had made me uncomfortable because of how he would speak about my kids and their development. I was paying attention. There were already clues, and standing right there – watching it happen – it was clear what his intention was.

My daughter was 13 at the time. Her entire body stiffened and froze, as she looked across the room at me. This wasn’t something I could ignore. So I took action in a way that let my daughter know she could count on her mother to protect her from harm. With my daughter standing next to me, I told the man what he had done was inappropriate and not allowed. I informed him I would share this incident with other family members so they could protect their kids. Then I hugged my daughter.

I acted quickly because I needed to be courageous for my daughter. It was an empowering moment for me, doing for her what the adults in my life didn’t do for me when I was a child.”

– Read Svava’s full blog post at: http://www.d2lblog.com/2015/04/28/coming-to-my-daughters-rescue/#sthash.XxOt2avm.dpuf

Do you have more questions about child sexual abuse prevention? Is your community group, sports organization, child care center or faith group equipped to take action for the children in your care? Contact SCAN at info@scanva.org to learn more about our work with Darkness to Light to educate and empower adults in Northern Virginia.

2014_06_D2LtrainingupdateOn December 16, 2011, SCAN held its first Darkness to Light Stewards of Children Training.  Since that time, we have had thirty-four trainings. On Saturday June 1, we held our largest training yet, training 63 members of the Open Door Presbyterian Church in Herndon.  Statistics told church members that children within their own congregation were suffering from child sexual abuse.  1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.  Members had to act.  They had to protect their children.

Three of our authorized facilitators presented the training to ODPC members, asking them questions that challenged their own beliefs and knowledge about sexual abuse.  The facilitators will continue to be there for the group as they edit their codes of conduct and policies within the church.

As of June 1, 2014, our authorized facilitators have now trained 522 people across Northern Virginia!

Think of that –

522 adults who are better equipped to prevent child sexual abuse

522 adults in our communities who can recognize signs that a child is suffering from sexual abuse

522 adults who are not afraid to act on behalf of a child because they are making choices, taking risks, and supporting one another

522 adults who have created, rewritten or are enforcing codes of conduct and policies within the organizations they serve

Our work is not done yet.  Do you know the signs of child sexual abuse?  Do you know what to do to minimize the chance of child sexual abuse happening?  Do you know what to do if a child discloses sexual abuse, if you discover it, or you suspect it?  SCAN has a network of twenty facilitators who are ready to come to you and awaken the power within YOU to prevent child sexual abuse.

Please contact me for more information.

– Tracy Leonard
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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