This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.
Written by Jacie Farris
A few weeks ago I sat in a training room prepared to watch a video about child safety, typically a routine orientation procedure for new hires in youth-related fields.
What I didn’t expect was a series of touching interviews of sexual abuse survivors, brave individuals who for years have coped with the trauma of molestation, rape or prostitution that they faced as children.
The “Stewards of Children” program, presented by Heather Wildrick-Holman, the Early Intervention Training and Education Coordinator for Children’s Bureau, Inc., brought to my mind the realities of child sexual abuse.
“Even though this is a tough and often uncomfortable topic to talk about, we all must talk to children and adults about child sexual abuse,” said Wildrick-Holman, who also co-chairs the Marion County Prevent Child Abuse Council. “Talking about child sexual abuse is safety planning, just like we teach our children about fire safety, water safety and to look both ways before crossing a busy street.”
Nationally, one in ten 10 children will be sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday. Additionally, Indiana ranks second in the nation for the number of girls sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday.
The “Stewards of Children” training is designed to reduce the number of child sexual abuse instances by providing parents, guardians and child care providers with the knowledge they need to more confidently and competently address the issues.
According to Wildrick-Holman, “’Stewards of Children’ is a training that educates adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.”
Adults are not the only ones who need training on child sexual abuse prevention; children need to be prepared, too.
“Parents need to start early talking with their children about their bodies, using the correct names of body parts, and about how their children can always go to a trusted adult with anything that makes them feel uncomfortable,” said Sandy Runkle with Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, an organization that offers the “Stewards of Children” training and other health and safety programs.
Runkle added, “Remind children that their bodies are their own, and that no one has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.”
According to Runkle, over 90 percent of perpetrators are not strangers to their victims, but are more often friends or relatives. Furthermore, instances of child sexual abuse often happen in one-on-one settings without supervision, making it imperative for guardians to question their babysitters and child care providers about safety protocols and expectations.
Reporting suspicious behavior is also important, as many perpetrators are caught breaking or pushing boundaries, as opposed to being caught directly in the act of abuse.
“The law states that anyone who has reason to believe that a child is the victim of child abuse or neglect must make a report,” said Runkle. “Anonymous reports are accepted. The law is clear that there just has to be a ‘reason to believe;’ you don’t have to know or prove anything.”
To report suspicious behavior, call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556 and local law enforcement.
“Be an empowered bystander when you see any adult breaking safe boundaries with a child and intercept those behaviors,” said Wildrick-Holman.
Find more information about the “Stewards of Children” program.
Find more information about Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.
Register for the next “Stewards of Children” training in MCCOY’s new training room.