The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, in partnership with the Troup Family Connection Authority and Twin Cedars, launched its official initiative to end child sexual abuse at Wednesday’s “Darkness to Light” breakfast.
More than 100 people, the majority from agencies that work with children, attended the breakfast at Del’avant, where GCCA’s Director of Prevention Services Tiffany Sawyer presented the group with information about the initiative, encouraging participants to take part.
The statistics from Sawyer’s presentation startled the crowd. It showed that besides murder, child sexual abuse is the most costly crime in the United States.
The immediate and tangible costs of intervention and treatment for a single incident of child sexual abuse is approximately $14,345; In Troup County, the direct and immediate costs of child sexual abuse is $577,048 annually and the long-term costs and losses caused by child sexual abuse in Troup County are over $5.9 million annually.
In addition to the financial cost of child sexual abuse, paid by taxpayers, child sexual abuse can cause other problems such as teen pregnancies, psychological issues and substance abuse in the victims.
Berger goes on to explain that adult training is the key to preventing child sexual abuse through several other statistics.
“It’s clear that prevention is something we really need to focus on as a community,” said Sawyer.
Research suggests that the average trained adult will better protect at least 10 children from sexual abuse in the years after training.
Mike Angstadt, executive director of Twin Cedars, closed the ceremony by reading a letter from a 19-year-old woman in Troup County who trained in the program in May and said the training was an “eye opener” to child sexual abuse. The woman worked at Camp Viola the week after she had received the training where she encountered a fifth grader who wet the bed while at camp.
“Somewhere between the coaxing and changing the sheets it hit me, this is a tell-tell sign of sexual abuse,” Angstadt read. “She’s only in fifth grade, but what if?”
The woman learned that the girl had been raped three weeks prior to camp.
“I knew when she was unresponsive and lashed out in anger … because I knew, I was able to understand a little better,” the letter read. “Nothing will make you hurt more than staring into the eyes of a sexual victim. Don’t stay in the dark, open your eyes because they’re everywhere.”
The goal of the initiative is to train about 2,462 adults in Troup County in five years using “Stewards of Children,” a child sexual abuse preventive program. That number represents the tipping point, a theory that states if you can reach 5 percent of any audience with your message, you have reached that critical mass by which you can bring about a cultural change. To date, 102 adults have been trained in Troup County, 4.14 percent of the goal.
The group encourages more to get involved with the initiative. To learn more about how to become trained in the program, please contact McKenzie Jackson, Project Coordinator for Twin Cedars, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 706-298-5055 ext. 1072.