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Talk to your children

Where children gather, so will sex offenders – whether it be near our homes, schools, churches, civic organizations, sports teams or playgrounds. While it’s true that no place is exempt from the presence of a sex offender, we are not powerless against them. What is absolutely critical is how we prepare ourselves to prevent child sexual abuse and how we respond when it happens.
Child sexual abuse (CSA) affects every member of a community. Child and adolescent victims will require help by professionals who have been trained in the treatment of sexual abuse.  These professionals will also help parents of victims.
In cases of child sexual abuse by an educator, all students and parents can be affected.  Though it may be an uncomfortable conversation, ask your child if he/she has any questions about what is happening in school.  Your child may be feeling a loss of trust in teachers and other adults. You can assure your child that you are taking measures to keep her safe. Explain that this is why it’s important for parents to always know the adults they hang out with and why you monitor their texts, emails, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook communications. If you are not familiar with how to do this, it’s time to learn
If this kind of involvement is new for you, your kids will probably not be happy with the perceived violation of privacy. However, tell yourself and your kids that when there is a choice between their privacy and their safety, you will always choose their safety. Eyes will roll and you may be accused of overreacting, but I can assure you that your kids will know you love them.
If you notice changes in your child’s behavior such as; avoiding a particular teacher, skipping school or withdrawing from extracurricular activities, you should investigate further. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a counselor or other parents.
Your next response should be to get involved with other parents in the movement to prevent child sexual abuse. Be proactive! Every teacher, coach and school board member should be trained on how to recognize and properly respond to allegations of abuse.
Also, parents, churches, non-profit groups and any sports or civic group using adults as to supervise children should receive similar training. You should demand better screening procedures, protection for whistle-blowers and transparency at every level.
Following the recent arrest of an educator on charges of sexual abuse, Brewton can take this opportunity to implement a strategy for child sexual abuse prevention. Your children, you and your community deserve to live in a town where children know they are valued and families live safely.
For more information and resources available to train your community for the prevention of CSA contact monicacdonohoe@gmail.com.
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Monica Donohoe, a Brewton native, earned a master’s degree in counseling and is a psychotherapist. She recent served as state director of the West Virginia Court Appointed Special Advocates and executive director of Child Watch.