Stop It!

Many difficult issues confront our little community. We try to stay up to date on problems our friends and neighbors face in their lives and find solutions. Nothing we confront, though, comes with the fear, anger, frustration, and sadness that accompany the horror of child sexual abuse. We can reflect on recent cases here that bring up all of those bad feelings again.

Despite the anxiety the topic elicits, I attended a class this week on ways to confront child sexual abuse that was put on by Kassie Smithey, a local woman who has bravely taken on this horrible topic by founding the Child Abuse Prevention Fund here at your Owen County Community Foundation. Kassie also used her time and money to become certified to teach the “Darkness to Light – Stewards of Children” class.

Once I was sitting with the other folks attending the class, interested local residents and some nursing students from my wife’s IVY Tech nursing program, I wondered if I was actually attending specifically because of the anxiety the topic causes.

Child sexual abuse is horrible. Why would we want to spend time thinking about its terrible stories and the damaged lives resulting from this scourge? This is the kind of topic that makes us shudder and look for an exit. That anxiety and discomfort often prevents us from approaching the problem logically and systematically – the kind of approaches that get results.

So, for starters, I will challenge you, our community, to face this very uncomfortable topic so we can stop it. As this very effective and uncomfortable training shows us, we need to learn the facts about child sexual abuse. But you won’t like them. And you may feel sick to your stomach. You may have moments where you want to cry or leave (Kassie actually gives you a gentle warning of this potential and encourages people to take a minute out of the classroom if they’re feeling overwhelmed).

I can’t even begin to do justice to a well-designed two hour course in a few words here but some things you should know. About one in ten children experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. “Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences,” according to Darkness to Light. One of the keys to this type of education for our community is that by learning the facts we can break through the denial and fear – that anxiety that made me wonder if I even wanted to attend the class.

Here are a few more sad facts: 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. 30% of children victimized are abused by family members. 60% of children sexually abused are abused by people the family trusts. 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older, more powerful children. 10% or less of children who are sexually abused are abused by a stranger. But you need to learn more.

Once we understand more about the nature of this crime, we can work on the other steps covered in the training: Minimize the opportunities for child abuse – eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations, and screen those who care for children in youth serving settings. Talk about it – have age-appropriate, open conversations about our bodies, sex, and boundaries. Recognize the signs – know the signs of sexual abuse to protect children from further harm. And React responsibly – understand how to respond to disclosures, discoveries, and suspicions of sexual abuse.

I hope we never have another case of child abuse here, but we will. We need the community to step up and confront this very difficult problem. Child sexual abuse is indeed a horrific part of life. But we can work to stop it. We must.

I want to commend Kassie and Adam Smithey for their generosity in creating the new fund here. And I’m in awe of the dedication and passion Kassie has demonstrated in her work to correct a horrible wrong in our society. I am proud to say she is an Owen County girl who has done well and now does good.

Here are some resources to help you. The Darkness to Light organization that put on the training I attended this week can be reached at www.darkness2light.org. You can also learn more at www.trauma-pages.com or www.stopitnow.org. You can also call Prevent Child Abuse Indiana at 317-775-6439 or contact at www.pcain.org.

Our number one value at your OCCF is our children – we want to help them succeed and be safe. We try to support as many local non-profits as we can in this area because our children and their safety are key to our community’s success and especially in order to keep our future bright.

Your Owen County Community Foundation is committed to helping our communities become better place to live, grow, and work. We value our children and want to help them succeed and be safe.

If you would like to know more about this local charity or our Child Abuse Prevention Fund give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at mark@owencountycf.org, visit us online at www.owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit at our office on the south side of the Courthouse Square in Spencer.

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