“Darkness to Light” is a training designed to teach adults how to protect children from child sexual abuse.
The three-hour training was developed in Charleston, S.C. Step 3 of the training is to talk about it.
“Offenders exploit children’s innocence,” said Sharon De Boer, Child Advocacy Center executive director. “They use children’s lack of knowledge to keep them compliant, ashamed and silent. It is important for parents to have age-appropriate, open, honest conversations with their children about their bodies and personal boundaries.”
According to the “Darkness to Light” training manual, there are many reasons why children are afraid to “tell:”
· The abuser may threaten the child or a family member.
· The abuser may shame the child, say that the child let it happen, or tell the child that their parents will be angry.
· The abuser may try to confuse the child about what is right or wrong.
· Some children who did not disclose the first time may be afraid or ashamed to tell when it happens again.
· Children are afraid of hurting their parents and family.
· Some children are too young to understand.
· Many abusers tell children the abuse is “okay” or “a game.”
“Parents need to talk openly with their children about their personal safety,” De Boer said. “It creates a protective bond between the child and their parent and gives the child knowledge that makes them less vulnerable to sexual abuse.”
According to “Darkness to Light,” children often attempt to talk about their concerns:
· Children who disclose sexual abuse often tell a trusted adult other than a parent. For this reason, training for people who work with children is very important.
· Children may ask questions about bodies, interactions or sex, rather than talk directly about something they have experienced.
· Children may tell part of what happened or pretend it happened to someone else to check your reaction.
· Children will often shut down if you respond emotionally or negatively.
“One of the most important things that a parent can do is to listen to their children. Children often think they have told their parent about the sexual abuse. They say things like, ‘I don’t want to kiss grandpa good-bye’ or ‘I hate it when you are late picking me up from practice,’ or ‘my uncle is mean to me’,” said De Boer.
“As parents we have to learn to ask the next question, Why don’t you want to kiss your grandpa? What happens if I am late picking you up? What does your uncle do that is mean? We need to listen when our children talk and we need to ask questions.”
The “Darkness to Light” Interactive Workbook states ways to talk to children about their private parts:
· “No one should ever touch you where a bathing suit covers.” This is a good visual, especially for young children.
· Tell the child that their mouth is also a private part.
· “It is not okay for someone to ask you to touch their private parts with any part of your body.”
· “Your whole body is private whenever you want it to be. You get to decide who touches you.”
· “Sometimes touch might just feel uncomfortable, even if you like the person. Whenever it is uncomfortable you can say no.”
“It is also important to talk to other adults about child sexual abuse,” said Ryan Wallace, Child Advocacy Center community education coordinator. “You may be offering information to a parent whose child is being sexually abused and the parent may not know what to do.”
You can bring the “Darkness to Light” training to your church, business, school, PTO, or civic group. To schedule training, please contact Ryan Wallace at the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County (615) 867-9000 or Amanda Pruitt at the Cannon County Child Advocacy Center (615) 563-9915.
For more information on “Darkness to Light” visit the website at http://www.d2l.org.