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Hirsch: It takes a village to abuse a child

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Sharon Hirsch

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

When we hear stories about children being violated by someone trusted in their lives — a teacher, coach, pastor, or family member — we are horrified and angry. Often in these situations, people likely knew something was wrong, but did not act out of fear or lack of knowledge. This is why the line in the Academy Award-winning movie, Spotlight, resonates with us at Prevent Child Abuse NC: “It takes a village to abuse a child.”

Our reactions cannot stop with horror and anger. We all have a role to play. We can prevent child sexual abuse when we shine a light on protective factors and stay involved in our community and work together to make sure our schools, faith communities and neighborhoods are safe, nurturing environments for children of all ages.

Preventing child sexual abuse is not the responsibility of children; it’s the responsibility of the adults who live in the neighborhoods and communities where children live. Sexual abuse has been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as a significant public health issue.

Child sexual abuse is preventable. There are ways school leaders, PTAs, coaches, faith leaders, communities and parents can prevent abuse from occurring. When we speak up, we transform the lives of children, the adults they will become and the schools, faith communities and neighborhoods they call home.

The first step is to know what abuse is, how to recognize it when it is occurring, and how to respond appropriately. You can take a free course on recognizing and responding to child maltreatment at PreventChildAbuseNC.org. It is designed for professionals, volunteers working with children and families and any North Carolina citizen concerned with child well-being. Prevent Child Abuse NC recommends that all schools require all their staff to take this course.

All child-serving organizations should have policies in place that ensure children are never left alone with an adult or adults. If policies don’t exist, create one that puts the protection of children as the highest priority.

Here are some easy places to start:

Screen babysitters and caregivers and make sure your child care provider has done a complete background check on all of their employees. Check references with other families and ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and carefully listen to responses.

Monitoring internet and social media use is a critical tool for preventing abuse. Keep your computer in a common area of your home and supervise your child’s internet use. Know who their online “friends” are and establish family internet safety rules.

Remember, if you suspect child sexual abuse, report it immediately to the police.

Prevent Child Abuse NC is committed to providing communities across our state with the knowledge, skills and supports they need to prevent abuse from occurring by fostering safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. Getting involved when you suspect a child is being maltreated is essential to make that possible. Together, we can prevent abuse from ever happening. It takes a village.

 

Sharon Hirsch is President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

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