After community discussions about violence against children, staff at Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield, Massachusetts developed Keep Me Safe Storytime, a six-week program for preschoolers that teaches children not only about general safety, but also about safe and unsafe touching. An article about the child abuse prevention program in the February 2015 issue of American Libraries (Sheehan & Tournas) struck a chord with me. I'm a certified facilitator for Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention program, a two-hour training designed to empower adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to the issue of child sexual abuse. I have promoted the training in educational and other non-profit settings, but after I read about Keep Me Safe, I realized that library staff throughout Tennessee have a similar opportunity to bring training to their communities.
Child sexual abuse in the U.S. is likely the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences. In fact, about one in ten children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday (Townsend, Rheingold, & Haviland, 2016). And of the children who are abused, only about 38% will have the courage to tell someone about it (Townsend, 2016). Stewards of Children is the only nationally distributed, evidence-informed curriculum proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes, and change protective behaviors in adults (Rheingold et al., 2015). The program believes and teaches that child safety is an adult’s job. Participants in the training meet survivors who lived through child sexual abuse, experienced its immediate and long-term effects, and ultimately were able to find healing. They also hear from experts who work with children and families, and who confront abuse on a daily basis. The two hour action oriented-program leads adults through five steps that they can take as individuals to protect children.
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee (2015) estimates that 42% of the Tennessee population has experienced two or more Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs), traumatic or violent events that may have a long-term negative lasting impact on a child’s wellbeing (Felitti et al., 1998; see also http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/). Tennessee has several initiatives to prevent ACEs, including an ACEs summit held in November 2015, organized by ACE Awareness Foundation (Memphis), Baptist Healing Trust (Nashville), and First Lady Crissy Haslam. Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee and the Nashville Child Protection Coalition are but a few of many agencies that offer free and low cost training.
My interest in Stewards of Children was sparked by membership on the board of Our Kids, which administers Middle Tennessee clinics with expert staff who perform forensic examinations of children and counsel parents when sexual abuse is suspected, and is one of the founding members of the Nashville Child Protection Coalition. Our Kids’ goal is to reduce the occurrence of child sexual abuse through a coordinated effort to bring Stewards of Children to Tennessee schools, businesses, congregations, organizations, and community groups, and we can add libraries--shifting perspectives on child sexual abuse and making prevention part of our culture. We know that child sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy which, tragically, breeds within our community because it is difficult to talk about. We want to change the conversation. We want Tennesseans to engage in a conversation about this issue because that is the most effective tool we have to eradicate child abuse. We believe that the eradication of child abuse begins with building informed, empowered adult communities with the courage to talk openly about child abuse.
If you are interested in taking the Stewards of Children training, hosting training, or if you have questions, please consider joining the movement. You can find Darkness to Light training or a facilitator near you at www.d2l.org.
Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., . . . Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245-258. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0749-3797(98)00017-8
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee. (2015). Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee annual report, 2014-2015. Retrieved March 25, 2016 from http://issuu.com/preventchildabusetennessee/docs/2014-2015_annual_report_8012fc72916027/12?e=15419038/32769481
Rheingold, A. A., Zajac, K., Chapman, J. E., Patton, M., de Arellano, M., Saunders, B., & Kilpatrick, D. (2015). Child sexual abuse prevention training for childcare professionals: an independent multi-site randomized controlled trial of Stewards of Children. Prevention Science, 16(3), 374-385. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11121-014-0499-6
Sheehan, N., & Tournas, S. (2015). Keep me safe storytime. American Libraries, 46(1/2), 42-45.
Townsend, C. (2016). Did you know? Comprehensive child sexual abuse statistics and citations. Charleston, South Carolina: Darkness to Light. Unpublished.
Townsend, C., Rheingold, A., & Haviland, M. L. (2016). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: An updated review of child sexual abuse prevalence studies. Charleston, South Carolina: Darkness to Light. Unpublished.