Somerset Valley YMCA Launches Program to Fight Sexual Abuse

Sets goal to train 8,268 people in Somerset County to recognize signs and impacts of sexual abuse on children.

Submitted by Bev McCarron

According to experts, one in 10 children—or 400,000 each year—will experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. 

To educate adults in the community in how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, including the Somerset Valley YMCA, has joined forces with Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization and creators of the award-winning Stewards of Childrenchild sexual abuse prevention curriculum.

Through this initiative, the nonprofit Somerset Valley YMCA is offering Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training to adults in the community, beginning with its own staff. 

YMCA staff members are currently undergoing the training, but the Y plans to open the classes to the community, providing facilitator led trainings to the public, including to youth sports organizations, school districts, faith centers and non-profits. 

Local businesses, large or small, are encouraged to participate.  From now through, April 23, 2014, free online training is being made available.  Continuing education credits for professionals in various fields can be obtained through this training.

“As Social Responsibility is one of the Y’s key areas of focus, we are committed to developing community-based solutions that unite people to participate in and work for positive social change,” said Paul Kieltyka, Somerset Valley YMCA CEO. “By partnering with Darkness to Light, we will educate and empower adults to become agents of change to protect children from sexual abuse.”

The evidence-based program is designed to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child protective behaviors. Darkness to Light training covers a 5-step action plan: learn the facts (1 in 10 children are sexually abused, while over 90% know their abuser); minimize opportunity (eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse); talk about it (have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex and boundaries); recognize the signs (know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm); and react responsibly (understand how to respond to suspicions or reports of sexual abuse).

“Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic that crosses every socioeconomic boundary and does not discriminate,” Kieltyka said. “We, as adults, need to take responsibility and protect children in our community. By offering Stewards of Children training, the Y hopes to empower and mobilize adults to take action and prevent child sexual abuse.”

As research has shown that 5 percent is the critical point for positive change in the community, the NJ YMCA State Alliance has a goal of training 83,000 adults by 2017. 

The Somerset Valley YMCA’s own goal is to train 8,268, which is 5 percent of the adults in the communities served by the organization.

Ys will work with local community partners including schools, volunteer groups and local government to meet their goal and help facilitate change.

“The YMCA and New Jersey YMCA State Alliance continue to be incredible partners in the fight against child sexual abuse. Their commitment to protect children in YMCA programs, facilities and in the community should serve as an inspiration to all youth serving organizations across the country,” said Jolie Logan, President and CEO of Darkness to Light.

“We can make a difference step by step, and these steps add up to happier, healthier children and stronger communities,” says Kieltyka.

For more information and to learn about Stewards of Children workshops or online training sessions offered by the Somerset Valley YMCA, please contact Bryan Elsasser, 908 722-4567 ext. 603 or belsasser@ymcasomersetvalley.org.



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