In my effort to gain more expertise in the area of child safety,
I recently went through two trainings from the national organization, Darkness to Light.
Darkness to Light is a non-profit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse.
The first training was the 30-minute program, “Protecting Children During a Crisis,” created with the Covid pandemic in mind. Since this training was truly excellent and enlightening, I also went through D2L’s “Stewards of Children” training.
I highly recommend every parent and educator—anyone who cares about child safety—go through this training. However, since the program takes over two hours, some people may not get to it. Which is why I’m going to give you the highlights of Darkness to Light’s “Stewards of Children” training.
Step #1: Learn the facts
The first section of “Stewards of Children” covers facts, definitions, and statistics. For instance:
“Child sexual abuse is the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.”
Also covered are the numerous consequences of child sexual abuse (aka CSA) including: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, etc..
Step #2: Minimize opportunities for abuse
This section offered some terrific strategies for keeping kids safe.
Since 80% of sexual abuse incidents occur in isolated one-on-one situations, eliminating those opportunities should be a key goal.
Strategies to enact:
- No closed doors
- Encourage group activities
- Make “hot spot” areas off limits (ie. bedrooms and basements).
- Randomly check in on the situation, or have another trusted adult do so.
- Take group trips to the bathroom instead of one-on-one trips.
- Bathe your child and dress them for bed before the sitter arrives.
This section also included an overview of “grooming,” the process by which a sexual predator gains the trust of a child and sometimes their family/caregivers.
To introduce the concept of “grooming” to your child, consider buying a copy of my book, The Brave Knight. The book was written with the goal of showing kids what language and behaviors are used in the grooming process.
Rest assured, the book is not at all sexual in nature. The word “grooming” is never used. No body parts are ever mentioned. As such, the book is not only useful for identifying problematic adults, it also helps children recognize bullies and so-called friends who may be headed in the wrong direction.
Darkness to Light also recommends monitoring your child’s internet use since being online is another chance for a predator to be one-on-one with your child. Chatting on the internet can lead to phone calls which can lead to an in-person meeting with an adult whose goal is to engage your child in sexual activity.
Possible strategies for online safety:
- Random checks of a child’s phone
- Turning off wi-fi at bedtime
- Only using screens in areas where safe adults are present
Step #3: Talk about it
This section of the “Stewards of Children” training encouraged open dialogues with kids on the topic of child safety.
People who sexually abuse children specifically target children who do not have the specific skills to talk about it.
When safe adults broach the topic of child safety on a regular basis, kids become comfortable with the subject, making them more likely to report if something inappropriate happens to them.
PRO TIP: Knowing the proper words for specific body parts is extremely valuable for child safety. More on that here.
For more excellent counsel on speaking with kids about sex and/their bodies, check out this excellent website: Birds and Bees and Kids.
Step #4: Recognize the signs of child sexual abuse
My notes include over two dozen indications CSA may be occurring. Here is a sampling of behaviors to watch for:
- sexualized behavior or language
- unexplained anger
- substance abuse
Step #5: React responsibly when CSA comes to light
This section has a useful list of what to do when a child discloses abuse, when you discover the abuse, or when you suspect abuse.
Since one in 10 kids will be sexually abused before they are 18, this is good information to know.
To take the “Stewards of Children” on-line training, click here.
Note: The program costs $10. However, US Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s program, #FlipTheSwitch is making it possible to take the training for free.