“Darkness to Light” is a nationwide initiative to teach parents, grandparents, and professionals how to protect children from child sexual abuse.
The Child Advocacy Center has set a goal to train 10,500 adults in Rutherford and Cannon Counties – 5 percent of the adult population.
Step 6 of the training is to act on suspicions because the well-being of a child is at stake.
There are three ways one may learn of sexual abuse. The child may disclose the abuse. It is important for people to listen calmly, be supportive of the child and not ask leading questions.
The second way one learns of sexual abuse of a child through discovery. Someone may witness a sexual abusive act by an adult or youth with a child or someone may tell they heard or saw it happen.
The third way is through suspicion. Someone may see signs of abuse in a child or witness an adult violate boundaries with a child. Offenders are rarely caught in the act of abusing a child. But they are often seen breaking rules and violating appropriate boundaries.
Bystander intervention may stop child sexual abuse from occurring. A bystander is a person who witnesses a boundary violation or sees a situation in which a child is vulnerable and takes action.
According to the “Darkness to Light” Stewards of Children Interactive Workbook, when intervening in a boundary violation:
- Describe the inappropriate boundary or boundary violation to the person who has crossed it.
- Set a limit on the person who has crossed the boundary.
- Move on. State the limit in a calm, direct manner. Do not make a dramatic scene or become highly emotional.
- If the person who has violated the boundary is not willing to follow the limit that you have set, remove the child to a safer situation.
- If you intervene and boundary violations continue, you have reasonable suspicion to make a report.
For example, if you witness an adult alone in a room with a child, start by describing the behavior. Say, “It is not okay for you to be alone in this room with this child.” Set a limit and say, “You can only be alone in this room with the child if there is another adult with you.” Move on and say, “Let’s go back in the room with all the other children.”
The “Darkness to Light” Stewards of Children Workbook states people must report abuse disclosures, discoveries, and suspicions to Department of Children’s Services or law enforcement:
- Be clear and be specific.
- Tell the child’s name and where the child lives.
- Tell what the child said to you.
- Tell what signs you have seen in the child.
- Tell what behaviors you’ve observed in the alleged offender.
- Tell what access the alleged offender has to the child
- Tell where you are, where the child is, and where the offender
is, if known.
Deirdre Lackey, Rutherford County Department of Children’s Services team leader said, “Everyone is a mandated reporter by law in the State of Tennessee. The Department of Children’s Services hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to report child abuse. You can report child abuse to 1-888-237-0004.”
“In Rutherford and Cannon Counties there is a partnership between the Department of Children’s Services, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, the Guidance Center, Our Kids Center and the Child Advocacy Center,” said Sharon De Boer, Child Advocacy Center executive director. “We respond to child sexual abuse cases and help children and families as a team.”
To learn more about how to react responsibly to disclosures, discoveries, and suspicions of child sexual abuse, attend one of the Darkness to Light trainings in Rutherford or Cannon Counties. To find training near you, 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.