This article is brought to us by guest columnist Misti DeVries.
Children’s Assessment Center Offers Training
Born and raised a Grand Rapids girl, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life; however, I knew that I was put on this earth to help children and families. I knew that I wanted to be a part of an organization that put others first and made a difference in their community. I write this today not only as someone who has spent years caring for other people’s children, but as a mom to two boys.
I want people to know that child sexual abuse is an epidemic, and it is happening in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and in Kent County.
My name is Misti, and I am the Community Advocate at the Children’s Assessment Center in Grand Rapids.
An Alarming Sexual Abuse Stat
Did you know that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18?
It is the mission of the Kent County Children’s Assessment Center (CAC) to assess and support child victims of suspected sexual assault, and educate children and the community to prevent such assaults. To help us achieve our mission, the CAC is now facilitating Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children (D2L.org). D2L programs raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse.
Using Cute Names for Body Parts Isn’t Helpful
Before I started working for the Children’s Assessment Center, I was in the world of Early Childhood Education. I spent my days caring for and protecting other people’s children, as well as my own. When I left that world for the CAC, I had no idea what to expect, especially when it came to child sexual abuse.
I was that mom that used the “cute” names for private parts. Why would I want to expose my kids to the real, dirty terms!? I was also the mom that NEVER talked to my kids about keeping their bodies safe. It was a scary topic that didn’t seem relevant to me. I mean, child sexual abuse doesn’t happen in my community!
As I became more immersed in the world of child sexual abuse, I realized the importance of using the correct terminology, and how un-dirty those words really were.
Cute names are just that, cute; however, when a child tells you that someone “touched their fefe,” I think many of us would believe that to be a stuffed animal or a toy. Would you believe it could actually be a child disclosing sexual abuse?
Don’t Be Ashamed to Talk With Your Child
The CAC also helped me come to the realization that I was completely uneducated in this topic. In order for me to protect my children and the children of my friends and family, I couldn’t be afraid or ashamed to talk about child sexual abuse. It happens, and it happens in all of our communities. I think most would be startled to know that in 90% of the CSA cases, the offender is someone the child and/or family knows, loves, or trusts. In 2015 & 2016, 100% of our clients knew their offender.
Shine a Light on Abuse with the Stewards of Children Training
D2L’s Stewards of Children is an award-winning training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
The program, as well as the Children’s Assessment Center, believes and teaches that child safety is an adult’s job. We want to educate and empower our community to protect children, and we believe that through this program, prevention is possible. Stewards of Children is designed for organizations and individuals that serve children and youth and for other individuals that care about the well-being of children. In other words, it’s designed for you.
Schedule a Training or Learn More
Child sexual abuse thrives in secrecy, and I personally want to make sure that our community is equipped with the right tools to make their organizations & communities safer. I want members of this community to be a voice for those who may not have one. If you’d like to learn more about D2L or are interested in scheduling a training, please contact me at [email protected] or 616.336.5164. Our community has a chance to make a strong and lasting impact on future generations, and that is so vitally important because the only real risk factor for a child to be sexually abused…is that they be a child.