Forum aims to prevent child sexual abuseWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The Sexual Abuse Prevention Awareness Treatment Healing Coalition of Northwest Ohio (SA PATH) hopes to further educate the public on child sexual abuse prevention and response at an April 18 forum.
SA PATH is made up of several community members who aim to eradicate all forms of sexual violence in the area, said CeCe Norwood, founder of Nirvana Now!
Norwood and Sandi Nugent, the child abuse prevention program coordinator for the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center, organized the Community Forum on Child Sexual Abuse. Norwood founded Nirvana Now! in 1989 to examine African-American women’s experiences after child sexual abuse and incest.
The panel will include several officials who deal with child sexual abuse cases including a Toledo police officer, representatives from Lucas County Children Services, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the YWCA HOPE Center, the chief of the sexual victims’ unit for the Toledo Police Department, an assistant prosecutor and a child sexual abuse survivor. Lee Conklin of 13abc will moderate the forum. Resources and information from several local groups will also be available at tables.
The forum serves as a call to get involved in fighting child sexual abuse, Nugent said. April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month in addition to National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Seventy percent of all sexual assault cases happen to those younger than 17, Nugent said. One out of four women and one in six men are sexually abused by 18.
To safeguard your child, Nugent recommended making sure that any activity your son/daughter is involved in has a policy on sexual abuse prevention. Furthermore, ask questions after a child participates in any activity.
“[Parents should] ask their children how did it go and did they enjoy it, and watch the response of their children,” Nugent said.
In the case that something did happen, believing the child is crucial, Nugent said.
“Parents need to believe their kids and a lot times they don’t want to because they’re afraid something did happen,” she said.
One reason parents may be reluctant to believe their children is that many sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by family or friends.
In 85 to 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases, the children know the perpetrators, Norwood said. Forty-seven percent involve family or extended family members.
Nugent noted, “There’s a fair amount of abuse between children,” which could mean an older cousin or sibling.
Parents should also keep a close eye on their child’s behavior. “We know that the behavioral indicators are acting out or maybe the very outgoing child becoming very quiet, the quiet child becoming aggressive,” Nugent said.
Talking about what happened is also vital. “You need to tell the whole story at least one time and three times would be better,” said Norwood, an abuse survivor. Her book “There IS Happiness After Abuse and Incest” chronicles the journey survivors can take to contentment after abuse.
If children don’t get proper treatment, their abuse can affect them in a number of ways, from drug abuse to eating disorders.
“The reason I think is because of a loss of trust; it’s understanding that as a child the very people you trust, your parents, your family are the ones doing something so heinous and these things are happening as the child develops,” Norwood said.
Other abuse survivors may have different coping mechanisms from working too much to being obsessive about perfection.
“There are lot of people living their lives and looking relatively normal and they are suffering just as much,” Norwood said. “Those folks are suffering just as much as substance abusers.”
Nugent stressed that parents believing their children is “paramount.” Children who report sexual abuse make it up about .5 percent of the time, “which is so small,” Nugent said, adding that they’re still usually disclosing the story for a reason.
Moms and dads should also talk to children about what constitutes inappropriate touching. “Those type of conversations should ideally begin when [children are] learning what their body parts are,” Nugent said. The words penis and vagina should be used instead of nicknames, she added.
The free forum is 6:30-9 p.m. April 18 at the University of Toledo, Scott Park Campus, Nebraska Avenue and Parkside Boulevard. For more information, call (419) 244-3053.
SA PATH is involved with several events this month including:
- The annual Take Back the Night walk is 7 p.m. April 21 at University of Toledo’s Health Science campus, 3000 Arlington Ave., Toledo. The rally and walk to end violence against women includes a resource fair starting at 6 p.m., a men’s program and a survivor speak out session. Visit www.toledotakebackthenight.org to learn more.
- A showing of documentary “Boys and Men Healing” is set for 6:30 p.m. April 23 at the University of Toledo’s Student Union room 2582. The film follows three men who talk about being abused as children and their road to recovery. Visit www.bigvoicepictures.com/ to learn more.
Tags: CeCe Norwood, Community Forum on Child Sexual Abuse, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Sandi Nugent, Sexual Abuse Prevention Awareness Treatment Healing Coalition of Northwest Ohio, Sexual Assault Awareness Month