Children of sexual abuse often stay silent.
Sandy Springs mom Kim Cunninghis, an advocate for the prevention of child sexual abuse says that can change if they know there are trusted adults that they can talk to.
“If we are talking to children about this issue and encouraging open dialogue...then children are going to feel more confident talking to an adult if something has happened,” said Cunninghis, a facilitator for Darkness to Light, the children’s protection agency.
As it is, many don’t come speak on it until adulthood.
. Recently, the City of Sandy Springs awarded the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy $8,000 to train 600 adults to become facilitators in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children program.
"We thought this was a valuable service to the community," said Mayor Eva Galambos.
Facilitators will be trained to raise awareness and help ensure proper policies are in place at schools, churches, and wherever adults are in direct contact with children to prevent opportunities for child abuse.
For instance, Cunninghis’ children attend Atlanta International School in Buckhead. As a Darkness to Light facilitator, she was charged with looking into protocol for the students' overnight camping activity.
“I called and they didn’t have policies in place, and I said, ‘I guess they won’t be coming unless they get these things in place. And they quickly got on board. It was sort of wake up call to the school, parents and the camp,” Cunninghis said.
The Sandy Springs mom wanted to know if there would ever be an occasion when a camp counselor would be alone with a student. What if the children were playing archery and one of them needed to go to the restroom? Would a counselor escort them, creating a one on one situation?
That type of scenario would not be appropriate, Cunninghis said. “Most crimes happen in a one on one situation. By eliminating that possibility, you eliminate a lot of situations,” she said.
Patrick Hurworth, head of the AIS Secondary School told Patch, “I train parents, teachers and staff [on prevention of child sexual abuse.] We have a commitment to train every adult who comes into contact with children on a daily basis. That includes part-timers.”
How can you make a difference?
The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy will use part of the awarded funds to hold two community awareness events in Sandy Springs. The Prevent Now events will show the emotional and financial impact of child sexual abuse to communities, said prevention coordinator Nikki Berger.
“We’re hoping that if people are talking about this issue and people are implementing policies, the word will be out that the Sandy Springs community does not tolerate child sexual abuse, and these are things we are doing to keep our kids safe,” Berger said.
“Darkness to Light data says the cost of intervention and treatment for a single episode of substantiated child sexual abuse is $14,345,” she added.
Additionally, numbers show 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18.
“That means 3,200 kids in Sandy Springs are impacted by this issue,” Berger said.
According to Cunninghis, every person trained on prevention of child sexual abuse will save 10 kids.
“I’ve had probably 8 or 10 people come back to me and say, ‘I walked in on this.’ Or ‘Who do I need to call, I discovered this happened.’ So the training certainly works,” she said.
Separately, since she became a facilitator in 2006 and particularly who want to raise their awareness and know the signs of child sexual abuse.
To become a facilitator and involved in prevention of child sexual abuse contact Nikki Berger at the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy via email: NikkiB@gacfca.org or call 678-904-2880.
The attached Darkness to Light video highlights how perpetrators of child sexual abuse are often people victims and their families know.