Why everyone should care about child sexual abuse prevention every day and how you can help
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and in partnership with YMCA of the USA, Somerset County YMCA is joining Ys across the country in taking Five Days of Action from April 24-28 to help prevent child sexual abuse. Keeping children safe is a responsibility that belongs to every adult in the Y community and beyond – every day. In fact, for hundreds of years members of the Y have worked to cultivate a culture that promotes child safety, one of our areas of focus. It is of no surprise that the Y is recognized as a safe space nationally and internationally. But talking about child sexual abuse prevention can be uncomfortable for many parents and guardians of young children; however, it is important to understand that in these roles, you are vital in protecting the most vulnerable among us.
As a professional who has looked at how child abuse intersects with so many other individual and societal ailments, I have experienced how challenging it can be to raise awareness around these complex, sensitive issues. But we shouldn’t let discomfort or fear stop us from becoming educated and becoming champions of children when the reality is that 1 in 10 children will experience child sexual abuse by their eighteenth birthday. Sadly, in more than 90 percent of reported cases, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts.1
These are alarming statistics – but we can create a different world for our children because the good news is that child sexual abuse is preventable. Just one act of thoughtfulness or kindness can help keep a child safe, maybe even your own. When these acts become the norm, we foster healthy, connected and resilient communities in which we’re all looking out for one another and each child can reach their full potential.
We hope that you will join us and share in our ongoing commitment to uphold the the safety of youth. We understand that life is full of challenges and daily activities; that’s why we’ve included some ways you can learn more to do more to protect our children’s only childhood. We can prevent child sexual abuse together.
5 Ways parents/guardians can protect children
6 Child abuse prevention quick tips
What is child sexual abuse?
“If you are not exactly sure what sexual abuse is, you’re not alone. All sexual touching between an adult and a child is sexual abuse. Sexual touching between children can also be sexual abuse.”2
Learn more from Stop It Now’s Tip Sheet
How the Y protects children and helps them thrive
At Somerset County YMCA, we are committed to child safety, youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. It is evident that health and fitness are priorities when visiting the Y. What you may not see immediately is that this includes building a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. This mission begins with each employee – throughout the course of a year, Somerset County YMCA employs nearly 1,000 qualified and talented full and part-time staff. Each person is carefully screened and a thorough background check is completed. All Y staff are trained in the identification and prevention of child abuse.
Additionally, Somerset County YMCA integrates a commitment to child safety in its program offerings to the Y community. This includes child abuse prevention, water safety, and youth mental health first aid, among others — all designed to help each child thrive. We believe that prevention is possible, but we need the community’s help.
Five ways parents/guardians can protect children
- Listen to them - pay attention to verbal and non-verbal behavioral changes or cues
- Show empathy - express concern for and validate their feelings
- Educate children early on about boundaries.
- Learn more about child abuse prevention by taking the Stewards of Children® Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training.4
- Create a family safety plan.
In her article, Must-Read Tips for Teaching Kids about Boundaries, Anne Calvo, Senior Director of Child Abuse Prevention for YMCA of the USA, says, “Educating children about the importance of personal boundaries – and empowering them to speak out when they feel violated – is essential to healthy youth development. Yet, the topic of boundaries is one that many adults shy away from."
Six child abuse prevention quick tips
- Do not leave children unattended; if you see a child alone when you pick up your own, wait for a parent or guardian to arrive.
- Watch out for any inappropriate behaviors in adults or older youth because young children are not as able to recognize these behaviors and protect themselves.
- Speak up when you see inappropriate behaviors or those that make you uncomfortable. It’s the only way abuse can stop. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the person, discuss what you witnessed with a trusted adult.
- Pay attention to children’s internet, particularly social media, use; these platforms can be used to lure them into physical contact. Learn more tech tips.
- Talk to your children openly and identify people who they and you trust.
- Report suspected child abuse to child protective services; if you are unsure, speak to a trusted adult. Learn how to identify abuse.
For a more detailed list and additional resources, visit www.somersetcountyymca.org/childsafety and the Every Day Actions from Stop It Now).
1 - Darkness to Light
2 - Stop It Now
3 - Praesidium
4 - Somerset County YMCA
About the Author:
Cristina E. Williams has worked for and alongside youth-serving and women's organizations for nearly a decade. Her desire to foster youth development and dedication to family health is what brought her to Somerset County YMCA, where she serves as the director of digital media. Through digital media platforms, Cristina believes heightened awareness can be achieved around the Y’s mission, including the social responsibility initiatives that drive her. Prior to joining the Y, Cristina worked in communications, advocacy and prevention at two state coalitions addressing interpersonal, child and domestic abuse.