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By Staff | Apr 10, 2019

Editor’s Note: April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As such, we have invited Susan Scharf, Executive Director of The Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center, to be a guest columnist for the month of April.

Unfortunately, ANY child is at risk of sexual abuse! It can affect any child regardless of age, gender, family income, culture, race, religion, physical appearance, sexuality, disability, etc. Hoping, denying, or pretending that this doesn’t happen or can’t happen will not lower the risk of a child being sexually abused. The reality of child sexual abuse is a terrifying concept but it’s something that every parent needs to face because knowledge is power.

Did you know that most child victims suffer abuse at the hands of someone they know and trust? Someone that YOU know and trust? We teach our kids not to talk to strangers… but how do we teach them to be safe around the people that they trust and that we trust. The first step to preventing abuse against children is awareness and education. As more parents, professionals and community members learn about the realities of child abuse, the effort to combat this serious problem gains momentum.

Taking these five steps in family and youth settings creates safer communities and helps protect the wellbeing of the children we love.

Learn the Facts: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.

Minimize opportunity: More than 80 percent of sexual abuse cases occur in isolated, one-on-one situations. Also, learn as much as you can about the issues of Internet safety.

Talk about it: Children often keep abuse a secret. Teach your children that the parts of their body that a bathing suit covers are private parts and that no one is allowed to see, photograph, or touch them there.

Recognize the signs: Often the signs are emotional or behavioral, not physical. Be vigilant and ASK questions!

React responsibly: Learn how to offer support and report suspicion immediately.

Prevention is the best hope for reducing child sexual abuse and improving the lives of children and families. Talk to your children about body safety, the sooner the better! If you need help with this, The Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center has donated books for adults and children to each of the libraries in Wetzel and Tyler County to help you navigate this process.

If you suspect a child is being abused, please call DHHR’s Centralized Intake at 1-800-352-6513 and contact your local law enforcement agency. If it is an emergency, call 911.