FULTON, NY – Physical and sexual child abuse is the most serious health problem that youth face.
The statistics are startling. Nationally 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday; youth represent 66% of all sexual offenses reported; and youth are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults.
Oswego County is not immune to child abuse. It is a prevalent problem that affects hundreds of youth and their families.
Last year alone, the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County provided services to 497 children and their families.
“Child abuse in our communities is a serious problem,” said Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Karrie Damm. “We are helping families heal and play a major role in investigating and prosecuting abuse cases but we cannot do it alone. Ending child abuse takes a cooperative, community effort. We must empower community members and invite them to join us in our efforts. Children should be loved, protected and nurtured so they may grow up healthy with their sexual boundaries intact. That’s a goal that each and every one of us needs to be focused on.”
According to Damm, the most effective way to reach that goal is through education.
To that end the CAC, with assistance from the Oswego County Legislature and Department of Social Services is bringing Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children program to Oswego County.
A national nonprofit organization, Darkness to Light creates programs that raise awareness and educate adults on how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child abuse. Its Stewards of Children program features a research based curriculum that focuses on five steps to effectively protect children from abuse.
“When I was first elected to the Oswego County Legislature one of my first calls was to Karrie,” said Legislator Tom Drumm (District 16). “My mom was a member of the CAC’s first Multi-Disciplinary Team and a board member for many years. She was passionate about the CAC and instilled that same passion in me. I was involved in fundraising and efforts to raise awareness of child abuse from a young age. As an adult I want to shine a spotlight on one of the most challenging tasks we face as a community, bringing an end to child abuse.”
“From a county perspective we need to take a personal stake on this issue and support the CAC as much as possible. When I asked Karrie what we could do, she mentioned the importance of educating the community and that the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children program was the best way to do so. It provides a five-step curriculum that offers simple solutions to a complex problem. Karrie and I came up with the figures for what it would take to get this program up and running and I am happy to say that my fellow legislators, the Commissioner of Social Services Stacy Alvord and I were able to make that happen,” Drumm continued.
The Darkness to Light Stewards of Children curriculum focuses on teaching community members the five steps they can take to help prevent physical and sexual child abuse.
1. Learn the facts.
2. Minimize Opportunity.
3. Talk about it.
4. Recognize the signs.
5. React Responsibly.
These topics are covered in depth and outline easy ways in which individuals can incorporate these steps into their lives.
“It’s all about empowerment,” said Damm. “The skills encompassed in these five steps allow responsible adults to take risks, support each other and make educated, proactive choices that they may have never done before such as talking to children about sexual boundaries, redirecting adults that are crossing those boundaries, reporting instances of child abuse, and supporting others efforts to prevent sexual abuse. These are choices that must be made to prepare and protect our children.”
“The Stewards of Children program provides a better understanding of what child abuse is and how it happens. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘stranger danger’, but that is not always the case. The greatest risk is not from strangers: 60% of abused children were abused by people the family trusts and 30% by family members. Educating individuals and helping them get a clearer picture in their mind of what child abuse is and why it happens is paramount to preventing and eliminating child abuse. It made sense to partner with the legislature and the Department of Social Services to target issues that affect vulnerable families.” added Damm.
With the Stewards of Children training now under way, Damm has set a goal of having 450 adults complete the training by year’s end and is reaching out to five target groups: schools, faith centers, youth serving organizations, parents, and those that are directly around children whether through sports or other activities. Training sessions are tailored specifically for each group.
“We are very grateful for the support we have received from Oswego County and the Department of Social Services. We would not be able to offer an educational program of this magnitude without the unwavering commitment of our legislators and their willingness to help us prevent and bring an end to child abuse in Oswego County,” said Damm.
“This has been a real team effort,” Drumm said. “We realize that the work the CAC/MDT does is heroic. It’s hard to imagine what our communities would be like if the CAC were not here. It would be catastrophic for our children and our socioeconomic factors would be much worse if we did not have the CAC to help abused children work through their issues and help them heal. I am an advocate for the CAC and will be visiting schools and youth based organizations to inform them of the Stewards of Children program and encourage them to take part in it. I will be attending the training and invite my fellow elected officials to jump on board and join us in our efforts to prevent and end child abuse in Oswego County!”
For more information on CAC, and to sign up for the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training, call 315-59CHILD (315-592-4453) or visit www.oswegocac.org.