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  • 09 Oct 2018 2:55 PM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    by Dr. Janet Rosenzweig

    With everyone talking about teen on teen sex, parents should be too!

    Perhaps 20 percent of American homes tuned in, one way or another, to the hearing Thursday in which a woman described being  the survivor of sexual abuse 35 years ago  to   the U.S. Senate, the American people and the man she accused, a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s hard to imagine that most people weren’t exposed to it, and the hearing may have riveted you and your children.

    It doesn’t matter whether you believe the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, or Judge Brett Kavanaugh – this is an excellent time to have a conversation with your teenaged and pre-teen children about how a man should behave, and how a woman should stand up for herself. You should do this at home,  and you should  check in with the  educational and social organizations that serve your children to encourage them to do so as well.

    Let’s start at home, where the seeds of sexual health and safety are planted. For parents, this is a teachable moment, building on past conversations about empathy, trust, boundaries and sexuality. If you’ve never had these conversations, start now. Even if you don’t think your child is listening, there is good research to show that parents underestimate the value that their children place on their opinions about sexuality.

    • For your sons: Any disrespect toward women diminish a man in that moment and forever. Girls are not objects  to be lusted after or sought after as a challenge,  and  initiating a sexual acts  of  any kinds sex using either physical force or dishonesty is as disrespectful as can be.  It can leave terrible scars  that may be totally incomprehensible to a boy, for whom sex may seem  game or a challenge.
    • For your daughters, this is a moment to make it clear that your love and support are ferocious on her behalf, that you will believe what she tells you and that she must not endure the pain of abuse alone and without pursuing justice. She was at a party? She thinks it was somehow her fault because she felt aroused for a moment?
    • Ensure that your child understands that sexual arousal is an autonomic response, and no matter when or where he or she find themselves experiencing arousal, it is nobody’s responsibility but their own. A person can experience arousal and still be a victim.
    • All kids need to learn that  no  person exists to serve his or her  needs, sexual or otherwise.
    • And to state the obvious, take every step you possibly can to ensure that your child neither hosts nor participates in unsupervised parties, ever.

    Even if you’ve never spoken about sex with your children, you can use this moment to start the conversation about sexual health and safety in a non-judgmental way. For instance: “I know a lot of people are reacting to the Senate hearings, listening to a woman describe being abused, and I’d like to know what you think about it.” Listen carefully without interrupting; prompt a recalcitrant child with “What are your friends saying?” or “What have you seen online?” Even if they don’t want to discuss their feelings with you, you can say, “In our family, we don’t ever want anyone to behave the way the boy might have, or for someone who has been hurt to keep silent.” These messages can be modified to fit children of all ages, but the message is the same; your children should consider the impact of their behavior on others, and to come to you if they’ve been hurt.

    It’s hard to imagine that any child would want to grow up and experience what either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh faced in those hearings; this is a great time to promote healthy discussions and for schools and youth-serving organizations to do their part. Start by becoming aware of the responsibility to create a healthy sexual climate, in which every adult in the school models respect and calls out violators. Schools should avoid enforcing the peer group distinctions that are fundamental to adolescents – just because adolescents form themselves into tribes doesn’t mean adults should reinforce that

    We don’t know yet whether any benefit will accrue to Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh or the country from this painful, divisive moment. But perhaps the best that can be said of it is that you can create a conversation and a lesson that will benefit your children for decades to come.

    For more resources on talking to children, follow these links:

    For parents:

    American Academy of Pediatricians

    Talking to children about sex https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/puberty/Pages/Talking-to-Your-Child-About-Sex.aspx

    Talking to teens about date rape https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/Pages/Date-Rape.aspx

    The National Sexual Violence Resource Center materials on prevention https://www.nsvrc.org/safety-prevention

    Dr. Janet Rosenzweig is the Executive Director of  The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children  and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent  and   The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex: A Complete Guide to Raising (Sexually) Safe, Smart, and Healthy Children.  For more information, read her blog, follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group


  • 03 Sep 2018 1:15 PM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    Promoting Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Education for Children

    The “Six Pillars of Prevention” is a framework for the prevention of child sexual abuse. Understanding that no one policy can combat the full scope of child sexual abuse and exploitation, the Prevention Coalition has identified these six areas, or Pillars, in which new and improved policies can have the most impact. The Six Pillars are:

    1.            Strengthen Youth Serving Organizations’ (YSOs) sexual abuse and exploitation prevention capacity,

    2.            Support the healthy development of children,

    3.            Promote healthy relationships and sexuality education for children and youth,

    4.            End the demand for children as sexual commodities,

    5.            Have sustainable funds for prevention, and

    6.            Prevent initial perpetration of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

     

    In September and October 2018, the Prevention Coalition will examine Pillar Three, Promoting Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Education for Children. The Prevention Coalition will use social media – tweets, blogs, and emails – to bring the message of Pillar Three to Prevention Coalition members, youth-serving professionals, parents, and the public.

    The World Childhood Foundation is leading this effort. This is fitting because the World Childhood Foundation works to support the development of solutions to prevent and address violence, defend children’s rights, and promote better living conditions for children. The World Childhood Foundation has supported over 1,000 projects in 25 countries and served over 71,000 clients in the U.S. alone during 2016-2017.

    Other Prevention Coalition members will provide content to promote this Pillar. Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA, is Executive Director of American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and consults to promote sexual health and safety for families, communities, schools, and organizations. She is the author of The Sex-Wise Parent: The Parent’s Guide to Protecting Your Child, Strengthening Your Family, and Talking to Kids About Sex, Abuse, and Bullying. The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy coordinates a state-wide initiative to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation. They are providing a great deal of first-hand experience with healthy development and sexuality education.

    By promoting the Six Pillars, the Prevention Coalition hopes to start a dialogue that will lead to meaningful policy changes that improve the safety of children and families everywhere.


  • 30 Aug 2018 10:45 AM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    The Prevention Coalition Starts a Conversation About Preventing the Perpetration of Child Sexual Abuse

    Why is it so hard for the public and the media to understand that child sexual abuse can be prevented? During the recent media blitz over the grand jury report about child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, we watched survivor after survivor tell their story. It was heart wrenching. But why was the prevention of child sexual abuse not a piece of the narrative?

    Whether we interrupt the thought process of someone at risk for abusing children, educate children and adults about child sexual abuse, or put policies in place that remove children from the circumstances that lead to abuse, we are preventing perpetration. We are stopping abuse before it happens. We are sparing children the terrible pain that the survivors of the Catholic Church abuse in Pennsylvania suffered.

    The Prevention Coalition is committed to taking steps to make the public understand that prevention is possible. The Prevention Coalition’s “Six Pillars of Prevention” are a great framework for the prevention of child sexual abuse. The Sixth Pillar of Prevention – “Preventing Perpetration” – is particularly important.

    During the months of July and August, the Prevention Coalition focused its efforts on publicizing Pillar Six: “Preventing Perpetration”. There have been daily tweets and weekly blogs on the subject. The effort has been led by Jenny Coleman of Stop It Now! This is apropos because Stop It Now! is one of very few organizations that provides a helpline for those who are at risk of abusing children, in addition to educating adults and families about preventing child sexual abuse. Visit www.stopitnow.org for more information.

    In August, Ann Snyder of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers authored a blog closely related to this subject. She pointed out that capturing the attention of media will require that we learn to pivot the conversation away from the noise of current events to prevention. She provided many real-life examples of how to do this. This is a powerful tool in the prevention toolbox. To see her blog, click here,  http://www.preventtogether.com/blog/6578059

     

    Over the next year, the Prevention Coalition will examine each Pillar in depth, highlighting members who make significant contributions to a particular Pillar and its policy issues. The Third Pillar “Promoting Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Education for Children and Youth” is being sponsored by the World Childhood Foundation in September and October.

     

    It is our hope that the dialogue the Prevention Coalition seeks to advance with the “Six Pillars” will lead to meaningful policy changes that will make a positive impact on the lives and children and families.


  • 16 Aug 2018 12:30 PM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    How to keep the focus on prevention amid the noise of current events

    by Ann Snyder, Public Affairs Coordinator, Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

    One of the maxims for PR specialists when dealing with an issue is, “Answer the question you want to be asked, not the one you are asked.” It’s become a truism because it works. It’s all about the pivot.

    Pivoting to the topic you want to discuss, rather than allowing the other person to drive the conversation, helps you cut through the noise of current events. So how do you pivot to prevention while still being responsive to the many questions and concerns about sexual abuse you receive from the media and general public? It involves four simple steps:

    • Know what you want to say,
    • Practice saying it,
    • Understand how that message relates to current events, and
    • Pivot to that message using a three-step process that 1) acknowledges, 2) corrects, 3) and educates the person with whom you’re talking.

    How does this work in practice? If you want to focus on prevention, be prepared. Develop key talking points you can keep on hand. Save them on your phone, carry them on a card in your wallet, keep them on your desk. Make sure they are easy to understand. Use short sentences and avoid technical language. Practice saying them until they come easily. Your goal is to deliver your prevention message every time you speak with reporters or the general public about sexual abuse.

    When someone talks with you about sexual abuse, the questions they ask may not be about prevention, but you can make them about prevention by 1) acknowledging, 2) correcting, and 3) educating the person asking the questions. The following examples are for talking with the media, but they apply equally to talking with elected and appointed officials and the general public. These are just examples; you will want to use the key prevention messages your organization promotes.

    • A reporter calls for your comment about proposed legislation to increase residence distances from schools for individuals on sex offender registries. You can respond by saying that:
      1. you support and share the legislature’s goal of promoting public safety, but
      2. residence restrictions don’t address the fact that most sexual abusers assault people they know, and
      3. a better means of PREVENTING child sexual abuse would be to invest in educating parents and children about such things as personal boundaries, healthy sexuality, grooming behaviors, and factors that can lead to abuse.
    • A reporter calls for your comment on a court case involving a celebrity who is on trial for sexual assault. You can respond by saying that:
    1. you understand that people may be surprised by this story, but
    2. unfortunately, sexual abuse occurs at all levels of society and it is not uncommon for sexual abusers to harm others from a position of power and trust, and
    3. businesses and other organizations can help PREVENT sexual abuse from occurring by taking steps such as implementing and enforcing sound HR policies, educating managers and staff on what to look for, and teaching people how to safely speak up and intervene.
    • A reporter calls requesting statistics on sexual assaults because s/he is writing about a local campus rape. You can respond by:
      1. sending not only the specific statistics requested, but
      2. also statistics about offenders, victims, trends, and other issues, and
      3. include information about effective PREVENTION measures such as campus safety policies and practices, parent and student orientation programs, and other topics.
    • A reporter calls about the number of registered sex offenders living in the community. You can respond by saying that:
      1. you share everyone’s concern for keeping children and families safe, but
      2. public registries are not very effective at reducing risk to the community because most people who have sexually offended once do not do so again, so registries don’t help reduce crime rates any further; registries use a one-size-fits-all approach based on stranger-danger and do not address the fact that most perpetrators offend against people they know; registries take scarce resources away from law enforcement by requiring monitoring of everyone on a registry rather than focusing on those who present a higher risk to reoffend; and
      3. the best way to keep communities safe is to focus on effective PREVENTION techniques such as educating parents and children about such things as personal boundaries, healthy sexuality, grooming behaviors, adequate group supervision, and factors that can lead to abuse, and by ensuring people at risk to offend receive the treatment and supports they need to change their trajectory.

    Shifting a conversation about sexual abuse to a discussion about prevention raises people’s awareness about the factors that can lead to sexual abuse and helps them understand how they can play a role in stopping sexual abuse before it starts. By following these guidelines, you can respect individuals’ original concerns and questions, while at the same time reframing the issue and educating people about effective prevention strategies. It’s all about the pivot.

    Ann Snyder

    Public Affairs Coordinator

    Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

  • 09 Aug 2018 11:09 AM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    The last few blogs posted here have discussed ways to intercept those who have a sexual interest in children before they act on those feelings. Prevention Coalition members Stop It Now! and ATSA are leaders in this field.

    “Back to School” time provides a great opportunity to point out other ways to prevent perpetration. A large number of Prevention Coalition members provide cutting-edge resources on ways parents and children can prevent perpetration. Enough Abuse, Stop It Now!, Committee for Children, Monique Burr Foundation and Darkness to Light all provide simple, proactive steps toward prevention on their websites and in their publications and programs.

    At minimum, there are three things that parents should know as they send their kids off to school.

    • ·         You can’t recognize a potential perpetrator just by looking or talking with them.  Many perpetrators are charming and appear to be caring and attentive. In fact, many offenders are teachers, coaches, and youth leaders.
    • ·         Potential perpetrators often “groom” children. Grooming consists of seemingly innocent behaviors to gain ongoing access and control over a child. Even for adults, it can hard to determine where positive attention leaves off and grooming begins. Once children have been groomed, they often become compliant victims; they feel they “owe” the perpetrator loyalty.
    • ·         To prevent this all too familiar pattern, parents must, at minimum, learn the facts about child sexual abuse. Information is power. Information gives parents the backdrop they need to take simple preventive steps that will better protect their children.

    For the best evidence-informed information about child sexual abuse prevention strategies visit the websites of Prevention Coalition members today.


  • 27 Jul 2018 12:45 PM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    As Director of the child sexual abuse prevention organization Stop It Now!, Jenny Coleman has a clinical background specializing in work with at-risk children, many of whom had undergone trauma and had grown up in foster or residential care. She also brings experience in early-childhood education and in developing mental health assistance programs and hotlines at the organizational level. She heard of Stop It Now! while longing to move away from the for-profit sector and back to her clinical roots; her interest piqued after learning of their unique approach to perpetrator prevention. As she has internalized it, this means “creating space for everybody to show up. I don’t see any one person as the enemy or the bad person.” She emphasizes that while everyone must be held accountable for their behavior, no one is just the sum of it. She started as Helpline Manager at Stop It Now! and has been with the organization for seven years.

    Stop It Now! was founded by a survivor named Fran Henry. Her father sexually abused her, and her impetus to establish the organization was informed by the realization that she never would have spoken up against him, even as she endured his abuse. She loved him and saw years later that he had undergone a series of revelations about his sexually harmful behaviors and was seeking treatment. She asked: “What could have made the difference for me as a survivor and for him as an abuser?” In conversations with fellow survivors and perpetrators alike, it became apparent that many relational complexities disrupted the simplistic prevention and intervention model of relying on the victim’s initiative in “speaking up.” Coleman believes that we can educate and support children and respond to abuse effectively, but, as Henry discovered and Coleman suggests, we also must “recognize that no matter what we give the kids, adults are the ones that are going to have to do something.”

    Thus, Stop It Now! emerged on the wings of an upstart, consciousness-raising media campaign to help adults across the board – parents, bystanders and those at-risk of acting on sexualized thoughts and behaviors themselves. She wants these individuals to take responsibility, stand up and adopt help-seeking behaviors for prevention. The organization aims to put a human face to every actor involved and to promote an approach to ending sexual abuse that treats it as a comprehensive public health issue.

    Stop It Now!’s helpline was devised as a place of support where at-risk or perpetrating adults could turn. Stop It Now! has contributed critical and demonstrable insight in prevention work: that adults who are at-risk for abusing, or even already have, will reach out if they know that resources exist and where to find and use them.

    In addition to their Help Services, Stop It Now!’s website (www.stopitnow.org) serves as a public education platform, directing browsers to tip sheets that outline identifiable warning signs and guidebooks that suggest how to broach sensitive topics and create family and community Safety Plans. They administer “Circles of Safety” training to professional caregivers, youth-serving organizations and parents in order to increase protective factors in youth-serving individuals and environments. Further, they consult on individual cases and participate as an active member in a network of public research and advocacy groups. Coleman is thankful to the Prevention Coalition for keeping her and the team at Stop It Now! informed as their organizational focus occupies a niche in child sexual abuse prevention and because “a multitude of voices can be more powerful than a singular voice,” especially when the first step in tackling child sexual abuse is coming to the table to “have that conversation.”


  • 19 Jul 2018 11:08 AM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    This week Linda Johnson, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, emphasizes how critical it is that child abuse prevention and treatment be nuanced and comprehensive.

    She and the staff at PCAV have successfully approached their Healthy Relationships Project programs with this consciousness. The Project’s three phases of curricula each target and involve a developmentally-distinct child age group within the range of 3- to 14-year olds. The trainings build preventative knowledge and skills through age-appropriate interactive lessons on healthy sexuality and relationships. Their child-focused nature is complemented by resources designed to prepare and connect parents, educators and other community stakeholders to prevent abuse as responsible adults.

    While skills fostered by the Healthy Relationships Project aim to proactively “strengthen children’s empathy, form the foundation for consent,” highlight communication techniques and guide participants to generate lists of people in whom they feel they could confide, Johnson expresses that “we also make it clear that they may choose not to tell, for many different reasons.”

    A trauma-informed understanding of disclosure acknowledges that it’s important that harmed children and teens know, regardless of their decision to vocalize their experience(s), that “it is nonetheless not their fault that sexual abuse has happened to them and/or to others [they know].” By reinforcing the fact that they cannot be blamed, Johnson says the care community works to “prevent guilt that may develop for not telling and [minimizes the growth of] a sense of responsibility for it happening in the first place.”

     

    In schools receiving Healthy Relationships programming (and representing a total participant population of 623,000), Johnson reported a 64% decline in the sexual abuse of children and youth, across victim age and relationship to perpetrator. Further, over a twenty-four year project lifespan, the number of youth found to have perpetrated sexual abuse year-by-year dropped from 260 in 1992 to 99 in 2016, a 60% decrease.


  • 12 Jul 2018 11:25 AM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    The Six Pillars of Prevention: Preventing Perpetration

    The “Six Pillars of Prevention” is a framework for the prevention of child sexual abuse.

    In July and August 2018, the Prevention Coalition is featuring Pillar #6 on preventing initial perpetration of child sexual abuse and exploitation. This Pillar focuses on recognizing and responding responding to inappropriate behavior by adults and other youth. It also emphasizes community response in the form of bystander intervention. There is an emphasis on intervening with those who are inappropriately attracted to children. This Pillar is especially important as children prepare to go back to school.

    Prevention Coalition member Stop It Now! is featured in July and August 2018 because of its leadership on the tenets of Pillar #6.  Stop It Now! is the only organization that offers an email, chat, and telephone helpline for those at risk of abusing children. The helpline services they provide are excellent for any adult seeking guidance, support and resources to prevent sexual abuse. Visit www.stopitnow.org for more information.




  • 05 Jul 2018 3:16 PM | Catherine Townsend (Administrator)

    The time is now. It’s on all of us to end child sexual abuse before a child is harmed. Prevention must be our focus. And prevention-related policies are vital to changing the way systems work, influencing how people behave, and creating accountability that it will happen.  


    Yet no one policy can do it all. A wide range of policies are needed. That’s why the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation developed Six Pillars for Prevention – to articulate important elements of a comprehensive policy agenda as a tool for communities to use to expand this conversation.  


    Prevention policies should focus on:


    1. Strengthen Youth Serving Organizations (YSOs) Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Capacity

    2. Support Healthy Development of Children

    3. Promote Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Education for Children and Youth

    4. End the Demand for Children as Sexual Commodities

    5. Sustainable Funds for Prevention

    6. Prevent Initial Perpetration of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation


    Join us and learn more about ways to expand the conversation and strategic planning around prevention-related policies in communities across the country!



  • 03 Apr 2018 12:28 PM | Adrienne Hoffman-Lewis (Administrator)
    Committee for Children is urging families to talk with their children in an age-appropriate way about child sexual abuse through the Hot Chocolate Talk and guiding families through this conversation with easy-to-use, research-based materials. Additionally, Coalition members are invited to use CFC's messaging toolkit to help get the message out about the importance of having this kind of conversation.
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