A workshop that broached the sensitive topic of child sexual abuse was hosted on Wednesday, May 27 at Fernie Secondary School.
The free workshop entitled Prevent It! was run through the organization Little Warriors. The three hour workshop was attended by many community members with active childcare roles in the Elk Valley, including teachers, daycare workers, early childhood educators as well as parents looking to learn about the realities and prevalence of child sexual abuse.
Local volunteers Rebekah Paetzold and Kylie Philpotts with Little Warriors facilitated the evening with a frank, honest discussion and informative videos that covered topics related to this kind of abuse including frequent myths of the crime.
“People falsely believe that sexual abuse is often a stranger danger, but in 95 per cent of cases, it’s perpetrated by someone the child or you know really well,” explained Paetzold.
The workshop also helped to dispel other myths such as pedophiles being easily identifiable by an overt ‘creepy’ nature or children lying about being sexually abused.
On this note, Paetzold said, “It’s been well-documented and well-studied that children hardly ever lie about being abused. In fact, it’s more frequently the opposite. They will withhold the truth that they’ve been abused in that manner. Some won’t even be sure that the abuse has actually occurred.”
An important tactic the workshop discussed was the idea of ‘teachable moments’ between the parent and child so that sexual conversation can be facilitated and normalized as early as possible.
“This can be as simple as telling your child the proper anatomic names for body parts, for instance, during bath time, so that in an instance of abuse, they can tell you precisely where they were touched,” said Philpotts.
The workshop encouraged finding opportunity in these moments to openly discuss sexual behaviour, as a frequent fear with parents is the unthinkable nature of the crime itself.
“With this workshop, we don’t set out to create fear or paranoia but to give parents and attendees knowledge, tools and a vocabulary that they can work with in order to talk to the kids and adults in their life openly about this kind of abuse,” said Paetzold.
The parents and industry employees in the room felt that approach.
“I came through my work and we always go to any workshop that’s around,” said Val Drader, a youth care worker with the Columbia Basin Family Resource Society.
Drader noted how the workshop put into perspective her interactions with youth through her career. In the case of some of the children she deals with, tackling those ‘teachable moments’ about appropriate sexual behaviour may be the only exposure to such information.
Little Warriors is a Canadian charity organization based out of Alberta that regularly runs workshops through its B.C. volunteers.