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Penn State took its first proactive public step in the healing process since the Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke a year ago and held a 2 day Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Conference.
The lineup of presenters specializing in the issue came from across the nation, addressing an audience of 500 like minded individuals, was a testament that this is by no means a new issue - and if anything it needs all of our dire attention to make a dent in this epidemic.
KidSafe attended this first annual event as exhibitors giving us the opportunity to hear all of the speakers while also meeting hundreds of participants and having the opportunity to speak about Sexual Abuse Prevention. At this event there was an extraordinary group of survivors from across the country, male and female, young and older who joined this conference to support the message of prevention and healing. Although all of their stories of abuse are unique there was one continuous thread - their abuser was always a known and trusted adult, often a family member. They noted to us from the point of view of a survivor - there was much discussion at the conference about treatment for victims and non-offending family members (all much needed), and even discussion of treatment for offenders (controversial topic among many, especially survivors), but they wanted to see more dynamic movement on Prevention pieces.
We often hear from survivors that if people knew what to look for - the signs of a child being abused and the signs, red flags, from the adult offender behavior - more children could be saved earlier on.
One survivor and CEO of VOICE TODAY Angela Williams, states “I believe adults need to take responsibility for the protection of children through education. A trained, conscientious and vigilant society puts the predator on notice and gives the child a community of safe people to watch over them. My dream is that one day this silent epidemic will be exposed, leaving no place for a perpetrator to hide.”
Some tips Angela shared in her book, From Sorrows to Sapphires:
1. Monitor one on one time with adults
2. Drop in unexpectedly and ask how the visit went.
3. Learn how to ask a difficult but vital question: “Has anyone ever touched your private parts?”
4. Monitor online internet use and keep computers in a central public location.
5. Listen for non-verbal signs and recognize behavioral changes.
6. Believe your child and report offenders, child sexual abuse is a crime in all states.
So what did we learn from this conference? We learned that so many people continue to suffer in silence. We learned that we need to work harder to spread awareness about the epidemic of child abuse. We learned that there are so many incredible people doing extraordinary work to help prevent child abuse. We learned that although many survivors who received help are healing - just as many are not.
We learned that this conference was just a drop in the bucket - and we need nationwide prevention education standards - mandated for all adults who work with or even in the vicinity of children.