WESTFIELD, NJ--According to the nonprofit organization Darkness to Light, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

That means that most likely someone you know has been sexually abused and, even more alarming, that means that most likely a child you know has been sexually abused.

The statistics are startling, the topic is unnerving and most people don’t know how to approach the subject matter. As such, parents and children are often left in the dark as to how to handle a situation should it arise or how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

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Enter: Darkness to Light's nationally accredited and award-winning Stewards of Children program, which provides awareness and training to adults on the subject of childhood sexual abuse.  

Darkness to Light will be partnering with the Westfield Area YMCA on October 17 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to teach adults how to be preventative and proactive, as well as how to recognize and react to childhood sexual abuse.

This workshop will “build your awareness on how to protect children and teach you what to do if a child says something to you,” said  Susan Morton, senior director, Child Care Services – Westfield Area YMCA  and Stewards of Children facilitator. Participants will also learn “to be more aware of possible risks that we may put our children in and how to prevent those risks," she said.

“It’s the best two and a half hours that could change the lives of so many,” said Morton.

The workshop will be facilitated by Janice Carthens, senior director member services/quality management for the Westfield Area YMCA and facilitator of Stewards of Children, at the Westfield Area Y--220 Clark Street,
Westfield, NJ. Registration is $5 and is open to the public. Register by October 10 online at http://www.westfieldynj.org/programs/brochure/class/772?showdesc=program, over the phone at 908-233-2700, or in person at the Westfield Area YMCA's Welcome Center.

According to Darkness to Light, four things you can do to protect your child right now are

1. Understand the risks:

  • In 90 percent of abuse cases, the child’s family know and trust the abuser.
  • 20 precent of victims of sexual abuse are under the age of eight.
  • One in five children are sexually solicited while on the internet.
  • The median age for reported sexual abuse is nine years old.
  • Nearly 40 precent are abused by older or larger children.
  • Most child victims never report the abuse.

2. Minimize the opportunity

  • 80 precent of abuse cases occur in a one adult/one child scenario.
  • Understand that abusers groom their potential victims by becoming friendly with their families, enjoying family activities, earning trust and gaining time alone with children.
  • Give careful consideration to the older youth that watches your children.
  • Monitor children’s internet use.

3. Recognize the signs

  • Physical sign–rash, redness, swelling, urinary tract infections, etc.
  • Emotional or behavioral signs--unexplained anger or depression or being overly “perfect.”

4. Teach your children that:

  • Your body is your own.
  • It’s OK to say “no.”
  • What to do if someone touches them.

For more information about Darkness to Light, visit www.d2l.org.

The YMCA is a leading nonprofit organization for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. For more information on the Westfield Area YMCA,  visit http://www.westfieldynj.org.