One in 10 children are sexually abused by the age of 18.
A child advocacy centre in the United States - the Children's Advocacy Center of Lawrence County Inc - is working to make it so zero children suffer from sexual abuse.
John Bout, director Children's Advocacy Center, and his staff have undergone training to help them become more aware of the signs of sexual abuse in children, and are setting out on a mission to educate 23,000 people in Lawrence County in Pennsylvania to do the same.
CAC was awarded a Frontline Innovation grant last year, and now has a long-term goal of eradicating child sexual abuse through educating the public.
"I will be passing on increased awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child sexual abuse," Bout said. "New skills to help adults prevent, recognise and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Positive change to organisational policies and procedures. Individual empowerment to understand personal responsibility and actionable ways to make a difference."
The programme is designed to touch people from all walks of life in an effort to protect and care for the county's children.
"Education is a component of this as well," Bout said.
The definition of sexual abuse includes any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors, when one exerts power over the other; or forcing, coercing, or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act; or non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, or communicating in a sexual manner by phone or internet.
"To all of those educational points of what sexual abuse is, I think it is important to offer education to the community in a broad sense," Bout said. "We want to to empower adults to prevent child sexual abuse. We are responsible for protecting the children in our community.
"The purpose of growing this sphere of influence is to reach everyday people and help them be better prepared to address the topic of child sexual abuse," Bout said.
The next phase of the project is for Bout to receive training to become a trainer/facilitator, and then return to Lawrence County to implement the programme to interested organisations.
Bout said Lawrence County is not exempt from child sexual abuse.
"As part of our history as a Children's Advocacy Center, our mission is to prevent and eradicate abuse," Bout said. "Looking at the statistics for child sexual abuse, the magnitude is one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Of those children, 20% will be abused by the age of eight.
"The harsh reality of what happens and also knowing that only about 38% of child victims disclose the fact they have been sexually abused."
For CAC, this new initiative is an enhancement on what the organisation already provides.
"Something that stood out to me is child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with most serious array of consequences," said Bout. "We have to partner with human service organisations, law enforcement, medical personnel, schools, churches... we really look at this project as a way to link a broad scope of the community with a topic they may be encountered with." - New Castle News/Tribune News Service
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