When the Penn State sexual abuse scandal skyrocketed to national attention last year, it became clear that many adults have a crippling misunderstanding of how to handle children's allegations of sexual abuse.
An upcoming program at Washington County Children Services is aimed at helping parents and adults better respond when a child discloses abuse.
"I think that sometimes people choose not to say anything because of the ramifications," said LeeAnn Bates, a licensed professional clinical counselor with Washington County Children Services.
On Thursday, Bates, along with representatives from EVE, Inc. and Washington County Family and Children First, will be teaching a prevention training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
The program, called Stewards of Children, offers continuing education credits for counselors and social workers, but is by no means reserved for them. Parents, foster parents and community members are also encouraged to come, said Bates.
"This is really for anyone who is around or works with children, whether it be with the scouts, 4-H, youth sports, agencies, businesses, school, or coaches," said Cindy Davis, counsel administrator for Family and Children First.
If you go
What: Stewards of Children training seminar.
When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Washington County Children Services, 204 Davis Ave., Marietta, in the downstairs training room.
Will cover topics such as recognizing characteristics of a predator and responding to children's allegations of sexual abuse.
To make a reservation, or request the training seminar as an educational tool for your organization, call Family and Children First at 376-7081.
Leftover funds from the Ohio Children's Trust Fund grant enabled Family and Children First to pay to have six representatives trained as authorized facilitators of the Stewards of Children program. These facilitators, two each from Washington County Children Services, Family and Children First and EVE, will offer the program to any area organizations that request it.
"(Thursday) is kind of our first presentation of this. Anyone can request us to come and do the training though. For example, it would be wonderful if there was a coaches organization where every coach had to have this training," said Davis.
Beyond teaching adults how to respond to abuse allegations, the program will also teach attendees to better understand the characteristics of a perpetrator.
"People need to open their eyes that this is going on and it is usually from those people you would not expect it to be. It's friends and family members," said Davis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
"That is why we are trying to raise awareness and get those stats to come down," said Bates.
The upcoming program, which will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the downstairs training room, is free of charge. Those interested can call Family and Children First at 376-7081 to make a reservation or to request the training program for a specific group.