CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Dozens of parents and counselors came out to the Stewards of Children Prevention of Sexual Abuse Training.
This training seminar put on by Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) and the State of Missouri Office of Child Advocate. This is the Sexual abuse prevention curriculum that is being given across Missouri. It shows people how to implement effective prevention policies, recognize the signs of sexual abuse in children and to react responsibility if an abuse occurs.
State of Missouri Child Advocate Director Kelly Shultz said reports of child abuse have been on the rise in Missouri.
"We are getting more reports of sexual abuse for children but I think people are getting more responsive and better at reporting," Shultz said.
Statistics show that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused and over 90% of those victims know their abuser. That has decreased from the 1 in 8 children from just years ago.
She has seen the increase due to people being more comfortable to report but urges those who are hesitant to report it every time.
"A lot of times adults will come to me and ask, 'Should I report this?' My answer is always going to be yes," Shultz said. "You're not making an accusation. You're asking for professionals to investigate and clear someone or protect a child."
Shultz feels it's important to have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex and boundaries. Also to know what the signs are of abuse to protect children from further harm.
"You're not going to see those signs," Shultz said. "You're not going to see the abuse first hand and you're not going to see the signs or even suspect it. But what you're going to see are boundary violations."
Shultz said one of the easiest ways to protect adults from children is by Active Bystander Intervention.
"What that looks like is, describe the behavior, set the limit, and move on," Shultz stated. "We've all seen little Susie get tickled by her uncle. And there's this face that Susie makes when she's not having fun anymore. She doesn't like it. We don't have to guess whether the uncle violated her boundaries or not. It can be completely unintentional. So we say, one, describe that behavior. She isn't enjoying that. Two, set the limit. Let's stop. Three, Susie, the rest of the kids are on the swing set. Move on. Let's go out and play."
Pocahontas, a BACA member, stated it's important for their members to do what they can to help spread the word about prevention but to also help victims.
"We want to empower kids," Pocahontas said. "We want to help those children not be afraid in the world of which they live. I thought bringing Mrs. Shultz in would help teach others how to better recognize signs with child abuse within the community."
BACA members even go as far as to escort children and their families to court cases and join them so they can feel as comfortable as possible during those difficult times.
"It's going to better your community. It's going to better that child's life in the long run and it's going to teach them that they can speak out against their perp and they do have the strength to be able to do that. Also, to try to give them a sense of having control over their environment and giving them some options and making them feel like they have a voice again," Pocahontas added.
One more important thing that Shultz wants people to understand is that 80% of child sexual abuse incidents happen in isolated, one-on-one situations and that it could be anyone that you know. She wants those one-on-one situations to be eliminated as much as possible.
"The perpetrators actually spend more time grooming the adults around them than they do children," Shultz added. "It doesn't matter if you know or you like the person. Any adult. Every child. Any setting. You reduce one-on-one situations."
Shultz said there are a variety of scenarios that could take some creative thinking to help avoid the one-on-one situations. She provided this example...
"Schools bus stops for school districts, they should make sure the first stop and the last stop is always a shared stop where more than one child is getting on the bus," Shultz said. "Again, it doesn't have anything to do with whether I know or like or trust the bus driver. It's every child. Every situation. Every adult. Reducing that one-on-one."
For more information about child sexual abuse, go to www.d2l.org.