Training program empowers community to help sexually abused children

Session to be offered April 29
Apr. 22, 2013 @ 04:31 PM

Two organizations have joined forces to help children who are victims of sexual abuse — Communities In Schools of Thomasville and Darkness to Light, a national nonprofit organization which advocates an end to child sexual abuse.
The mission of CIS is to surround children with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. In recognition of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and to create a community which can prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, CIS will host Stewards of Children training, a program of Darkness to Light. 
Mary Jane Akerman, wellness coordinator at Thomasville City Schools and a trained facilitator for Stewards of Children, will hold a training session from 5:45 to 8:45 p.m. Monday, April 29, at First United Methodist Church, 100 E. Sunrise St. in Thomasville. A light dinner will be served.
"It's a very deep, dark subject, but in today's climate, it's one I'm sad to say we need to address," said Judy Younts, executive director of CIS. "People know the subject, whisper about it, but don't always want to address it. I understand that, but I also know that we can't hide our heads in the sand.”
According to the Darkness to Light website, the program is for any responsible adult who cares about the welfare of children. It is appropriate for youth-serving organizations such as sports leagues, daycare centers, after-school programs, children’s clubs, church groups and more.
Statistics on the website offer clarity into the depth of the issue.
One in four girls is sexually abused before their 18th birthday. One in six boys will become a victim of child sexual abuse. This means that in any classroom or neighborhood full of children, there are many who are silently bearing the burden of sexual abuse.
“Many times we do not know why a child is acting out or withdrawing from social interaction, but statistics tell us that it is often as a result of sexual abuse,” Akerman said.  “Children, especially victims at the hands of a family member or a friend of the family, are afraid to tell.  It is our responsibility, as adults, to protect child in our community – to make Thomasville inhospitable to abusers.”
Akerman has trained more than 200 educators, counselors, and health care professionals in the program. For the first time in Thomasville, Stewards of Children is being offered to the public – to any parent or concerned community member – free of charge.
"The question is, if you suspect something, how do you handle these things? I'm very thankful to my church for hosting it. It's a great program, and Mary Jane was trained for this,” Younts said.
Topics include facts about the problem of child sexual abuse; the types of situations in which child sexual abuse might occur; simple, effective strategies for protecting children from sexual abuse; the importance of talking about the prevention of sexual abuse with children and other adults; and the signs of sexual abuse so that an adult could intervene and react responsibly.
The program is limited to 20 participants. To enroll, contact Akerman at akermanmj@triad.rr.com or 870-1627.