One in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday with abusers more likely to be trusted individuals than mysterious strangers.
These and other disturbing facts were among several outlined in an awareness raising workshop for adults on how to identify and prevent child sex abuse.
Run by the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, Saturday’s free session will be repeated 21 and 28 April from 9am to 1pm.
The interactive workshops, funded by a grant from Hedge Funds Care Cayman, are hosted at the Women’s Resource Centre in Elizabethan Square.
Attendees were guided by trained facilitator and CICC outreach coordinator Carol Graham. She used training material from the US-based organisation Stewards of Children Darkness to Light.
The grassroots, non-profit seeks to protect children from sexual abuse by placing responsibility squarely on adult shoulders to prevent, recognise and react responsibly to child sex abuse.
The training pack employed a variety of methods to explain, reinforce and encourage awareness and discussion on the emotive topic. These include individual work books, DVD with survivor accounts and a short series of group discussions.
Seven step programme
The Stewards of Children: Adults Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse training package is a seven-step programme, aiming to give clear, practical guidance on how to protect children. Guidance included:
– Learn the facts and understand the risks so adults can make informed decisions.
– Minimise the opportunity such as one-to-one situations where abuse can occur out of sight.
– Talk about it. Children often keep abuse secret for fear of reprisal and not being believed. Barriers can be broken down by speaking about what constitutes abuse in an age appropriate manner.
– Stay alert. Signs of abuse are not always apparent. These can include emotional and behavioural changes.
– Make a plan. Even if you don’t suspect such abuse, know who to contact.
– Act on suspicions. Not following through may lead to long term psychological damage for the child.
– Get involved. Become an agent for societal change by supporting child advocacy organizations and talking to policy makers.
Crisis Centre management and staff were pleased with the group’s diversity in terms of socio-economic background, ethnicity, age and gender.
‘Child sex abuse is found in every strata of society… and isn’t limited to adult males,’ said Ms Graham. Peer abuse, sexual abuse by females, older children and by authority figures were also highlighted.
Participants discussed practical steps to protect their children in the community. These included finding out whether the Ministry of Education had a protection policy and how that was used in all the islands’ schools and pre-schools.
Another attendee suggested asking church officials whether background checks were run on volunteers with access to children.
Easy, practical steps to reduce the risk of child sex abuse in the home included: monitoring children’s internet use, ensuring that computers were in a communal room and not in the child’s bedroom, getting proper references for babysitters and minimizing children’s one-to-one contact with adults in closed environments.
Attendees were encouraged to establish a ‘no subject off limits approach’ with their children.
The workshop reviewed the incident of incest in the immediate and extended family and discussed the psychological dynamics of child sex abuse. These included depression, self mutilation caused by feelings of self loathing, teenage pregnancy, emotional detachment and criminality.
‘We, as responsible, caring adults, are ethically mandated to prevent child abuse and neglect,’ said Ms Graham.
‘We sensed that the training inspired the fire of urgency in participants to go out into the community and face child sex abuse with courage,’ said Ms Graham.
This sentiment was echoed by all the workshop’s participants. ‘The training session was very insightful and brought home a lot of facts that aren’t commonly known,’ said Phillip Haynes a Home Care Assistant with the Department of Child and Family Services.
‘It’s something that should be ongoing as our children are the future and need all the support we as adults can provide,’ he concluded.
A mother and DCFS Practical Nurse, Ivalin Ellis, voiced similar sentiments: ‘…I feel more empowered to look out for other people’s children, my own and the children I care for.
‘It’s helped me be more alert and I’m going to talk to other adults about what steps they can take and what measures that can put in place to help children’.
Participants were told that CICC would be looking to continue the sessions at minimal charge to participants to cover the cost of materials.
Organisations or individuals who wish the Crisis Centre to set up training workshops on preventing child sex abuse should contact the CICC on 949 0366.
For further information of the Stewards of Children Darkness to Light, and to undertake the training online, visit www.darkness2light.org.
The Acting Director of the Crisis Centre, Nina Scott confirmed that the CICC is committed to reporting all forms of child sexual abuse. Anyone uncomfortable reporting such abuse/suspected abuse to the authorities can contact the CICC and a report can be made on behalf.
Hedge Funds Care Cayman is the first ever offshore chapter of the global alliance of hedge fund professionals committed to protecting children from abuse and neglect.
The organisation is mandated to raise funds to assist in prevention, treatment, support, training, research and advocacy programmes.
Child sexual abuse can often be prevented if adults educate themselves on its prevalence and the practical steps on how to minimise the risk to children.