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What Signs to Look for in Child Sexual Abuse: Public Training Session Spreads Awareness

children
Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Education is the first step in the fight against child sexual abuse-Photo Credit: Boa-sorte & Careca via Flickr

According to Child Safe of Central Missouri, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.  A Springfield group is hosting training sessions for the public to try to educate the community about the problem.  KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann attended a training Tuesday night and has this report.

[sound of the speaker]

Depressing.  Informative.  Empowering. Those are a few words used to describe the community training session hosted by the Junior League of Springfield

The conference room at the Library Center is filled with around 60 concerned community members from various backgrounds.   In the room are foster parents, non-profit workers, teachers, daycare and Sunday school workers, students, and concerned parents. 

Susie Turner is the president of the Junior League. She says this session is part of an ongoing education mission.

“The program tonight is called Darkness to Light.  And it is a program that was developed by the Stewards of Children. It is designed to educate adults in how to prevent and recognize child sexual abuse,” Turner says.

Turner explains that most child predators are not “strangers wearing trench coats,” but rather someone the child knows and trusts.  To better protect our kids from falling victim to a sexual predator, or to help a child who has already been victimized, it's crucial to know what to look for, she says. 

Predators gradually instill trust in a child through a process called “grooming.”  They may offer special attention to a child, isolate them from others, or fill a child’s unmet needs or role within the family.  Gradually the predator begins to cross physical boundaries with the child and often will use secrecy, threats and blame to maintain control.

Children who experience abuse often become withdrawn, or they may act out and get into trouble in school or at home.

“Our purpose for doing this is to educate the community to work with us in creating prevention in that area.  One of the focuses we need for this community and in the surrounding communities is to intervene against the high evidence of child sexual abuse that we have in the communities,” says Turner.

In the annual report published by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Greene County once again had the highest number of child abuse hotline reports per capita for the state last year.   

Turner says the Junior League will continue to offer similar trainings that are open to the public.  She adds that groups can also request these trainings.  

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.