"Children often test the water when they disclose child sexual abuse to an adult," shared Child Advocacy Center director Sharon De Boer. "They give you a little information and then watch your response. If you overreact or become angry the child may shut down, feel guilty or ashamed, or retract their story. When you stay calm, the child will continue to tell you what is happening."
Darkness to Light is a five-step program to teach adults to prevent child sexual abuse, recognize when it may be happening, and react responsibly.
Step 5 of the program is to react responsibly.
This step teaches you how to react when a child discloses child sexual abuse to you, you discover the child is being abused, or you suspect child sexual abuse.
There are many ways that you may discover that a child is being sexually abused. You may witness the abuse, someone may tell you that they suspect abuse, or you may find information on your child’s phone that leads you to believe that they are being abused.
Suspicion means you recognize the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse or you witness an adult or older youth cross a boundary with a child. If you suspect abuse set limits and start to ask questions. Offenders are rarely caught in the act of sexually abusing a child, but they are often caught crossing boundaries.
According to Tennessee Code Annotate statute 37-1-403 and 37-1-605 everyone in the State of Tennessee is a mandatory reporter of child abuse and child sexual abuse. You do not have to have evidence that a child is being abuse. If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused it is your legal responsibility to report those suspicions to the Department of Children's Services at 1-877-237-0004 or local law enforcement at 911.
"When a child is being abused it is like being in the middle of a storm. What the child needs is for the adults in their life to be the calm in the middle of the storm. Be supportive of the child, tell them you believe them, and reassure them that it is not their fault," continued De Boer. "The best way to learn how to do this is by attending the Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention training."
Darkness to Light has given the Child Advocacy Center unlimited free online training for a limited time until June 30, 2020. After that date your cost to attend the online training is $10 per person.
Rutherford and Cannon County parents, grandparents, and professionals can go online and take the Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention training free of charge until June 30, 2020. The link to take the training is: https://d2l.csod.com/client/d2l/default.aspx and the code for the training to be FREE is Rutherford.
If you have questions or need additional information please call the Child Advocacy Center in Rutherford County at (615) 867-9000 or in Cannon County at (165) 563-9915.