The sexual abuse of children is tragic, especially because in many cases it is preventable.
CASA: A Voice for Children is hosting an informational session to give individuals the knowledge and tools they need to prevent, spot and report the sexual abuse of a child. Stewards of Children training will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Aug. 5 at First Presbyterian Church, 900 N. Columbus in Newton.
CASA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the court system.
"We recruit volunteers who go through training and are appointed by a judge to advocate for a child in foster care," said CASA Outreach Coordinator Bill Reynolds."In addition to that, we also try to promote education for (abuse) prevention."
Reynolds has worked in social services for nearly 50 years and said there is more awareness of the sexual abuse of children now than in recent decades, though he doubts the number of victims has decreased.
"I think in the past it wasn't talked about; it was kept within the family," Reynolds said. "And it still is, to a large extent."
The training is from the nonprofit organization Darkness to Light, which claims that nearly one in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. In 90 percent of reported sexual abuse cases, victims know their abuser — 30 percent are abused by family members and 40 percent are abused by other children. Children who live with a single parent with a live-in partner are 20 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents. Sexually abused children are more likely to experience depression, obesity, homelessness and suicide.
The Stewards of Children training is video-based and features speakers who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Attendees receive a workbook that contains practical guidance for individuals and the organizations for which they work to take.
"During the course of the training, you have the opportunity to write stuff in the book and take it with you," Reynolds said.
There are observable physical, behavioral and emotional clues that can signal adults to the possibility of a child being sexually abused.
"They give you things to look out for," Reynolds said.
The training is especially relevant for anyone who deals with groups of children regularly, such as Scout leaders, camp counselors, school bus drivers or Sunday School teachers.
"In my view, it's really good for churches," Reynolds said. "...It makes everybody more aware of the issue and helps people become accepting of talking about it."
Steps are outlined to show how you can work to eliminate or reduce situations in which an adult is alone with a child, which lowers the risk of sexual abuse happening.
"When you're in a church and you see an adult taking a kid off, you can say, 'hey, that might not be such a good idea,'" Reynolds said.
The Stewards of Children training will talk about what sexual abuse is, its prevalence in all areas of society and understand how it occurs.
"It's not going to prevent everything, but it just heightens the awareness of the potential," Reynolds said.
Children who are being sexually abused often choose to tell another trusted adult — not their parents — about what is happening.
The Stewards of Children training teaches individuals how to react responsibly when they suspect, discover or are told about the sexual abuse of a child.
"Recognize the signs. When kids are being abused, they can be withdrawn," Reynolds said.
It is important to talk with children about sex and improper touching, encourage them to ask questions and tell a trusted adult if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
To RSVP for the Stewards of Children Training or to request the session for your organization, contact CASA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 316-284-6909. The two-hour session is free, though reservations should be made before July 24.