How to Talk about Child Abuse Prevention

For many people who don't regularly have exposure to abused or neglected youth, it can be tough to talk about the issue or even to just consider that another person is capable of hurting a child.

When we provide training for youth professionals based on our resource, SAFE (Screening Applicants for Effectiveness): Guidelines to Prevent Child Molestation in Mentoring and Youth-Serving Organizations, we always talk about the intensity of the issue and range of emotions that may arise during the workshop. In nearly every training, there has been at least one participant who reveals that he or she was sexually abused as a child. For these youth professionals, it can be overwhelming, anxiety-provoking, or empowering (or all three) to take on a new role of being a positive and preventative force when it comes to child abuse.

It's natural to be upset even hearing the words, especially if you have no prior experience of your own or someone you know. Even though it is an extremely uncomfortable topic that generates anxiety and fear, the potential danger for youth and the potential liability for organizations are too great for us to not address it.

We are compelled to confront "society’s historical attitude about sexual victimization of children [that] can generally be summed up in one word: denial.” Lanning (2001)

Where We Come In...

Volunteer screening and monitoring processes are a necessary but intrusive process for programs designed for vulnerable youth to spend unsupervised time with an adult previously unknown to either the child and parents/ caregivers.

However, there is little research focusing on effective mentor screening and youth safety. In addition to not having evidence-based guidelines, agencies face numerous obstacles in creating their policies and procedures. Denial of the issue is a typical response, especially in tighter-knit communities. Perpetrators realize that gaining the trust of the adult community is key to having unrestricted access to children. Communities often do not believe reports of well-known individuals who are accused of inappropriate conduct with a child. Should sexual abuse happen to a mentee, there is pressure to conceal incidents for fear of potential liability and loss of credibility. Many incidents of child sexual abuse go unreported; one survey of adults who were sexually victimized by adults as children reported that 91% did not disclose the abuse when it was happening.

We recognize that it is the responsibility of all adults and all programs that serve children and youth to do everything they can to prevent child sexual abuse. Through our resource SAFE and related trainings, we help organizations strengthen their tools and processes.

Recognized as the leader in this topic by the field, we're ready to help more programs keep more children SAFE.

We’re continuing our campaign to raise funds for publishing a second edition of our highly recommended resource, SAFE. Created with our over 30 years of experience and recent research, SAFE is the solution to preventing child molesters from gaining access to vulnerable children through mentoring and other volunteer programs. Help us reach more youth professionals with a new resource and training to prevent child sexual abuse. This version will include a trainer’s manual, featuring updated research on child sexual abusers, more recommended tools and processes for programs to implement, and information from our chapter, Mentor Screening and Youth Safety, included in the upcoming Handbook on Youth Mentoring, 2nd edition, to be published in 2012.

If you believe it's important to inform more youth professionals - including teachers, coaches, and youth program staff - please consider donating; even $10 will help!

Make a Secure Online Donation through our website

Make a Donation Through Causes if you're already on Facebook

Thank you to those of you who have already committed to keeping more youth SAFE!
Check out our SAFE 2012 Campaign page for more tips, statistics, and resources about mentor screening and youth safety.


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