Editor’s Note: The folllowing guest column, “Prevention is Possible,” was written by Tiffany Greco. Greco is the education director of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.
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ITHACA, N.Y. — It can be unsettling, to say the least, when a community learns an individual who worked or volunteered in a local school or youth-serving organization has been indicted on child sexual abuse or pornography charges. As parents, caregivers, and community members, we worry collectively and wonder what more we can do to keep our kids safe. Most adults believe that preventing child sexual abuse is possible but may feel uncertain of how to go about it.
Preventing child sexual abuse, unfortunately, is not as easy as identifying potential abusers based on outward appearances. Public appearance does not always reflect private behavior. People who sexually abuse children often look and make great efforts to act and appear just like everyone else. In approximately 90% of cases, the child knows and trusts the person committing the abuse. It is estimated that a third or more of abusers are immediate family members or other close relatives; and we know that others in a child’s circle of trust may also be abusers.
A child’s circle of trust may include individuals who work or volunteer in schools, child care centers, youth groups, sport teams, religious organizations, or any other setting where children live and play. Abusers may seek out employment or volunteer opportunities that provide them with easy access to children. Through a process called “grooming,” those who sexually abuse children work hard to build the trust of not only the children, but also the parents, adults, and overall community in which they work.
Preventing child sexual abuse is possible. It requires increased awareness, attention, and action from all adults who want to keep kids safe. Important conversations must occur regularly, intentionally, and thoughtfully in our homes, communities, and youth-serving organizations. Listed below are some resources to help us begin (or continue) these conversations as we all work to build a safe community for our children.
Prevention at Home
Prevention in the Community
Prevention in Schools & Organizations
Take Action Now
- Call the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County for a free prevention workshop! Enough Abuse Campaign workshops are offered for parents, guardians, community members, and youth-serving organizations free of cost.
- Create a Family Safety Plan
- Sign up for “10 Conversations” – a free bi weekly child sexual abuse prevention educational email series created by the Enough Abuse Campaign.
- The Advocacy Center is available 24/7 at 277-5000 if you or someone you know has experienced child sexual abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence.
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