By Ezra Black
A recent study shows that child sexual abuse is shockingly commonplace but a locally available workshop might help in preventing it.
Results of the study conducted by the University of Alberta and an advocacy group called Little Warriors show that as many as one in six girls and one in 12 boys are currently experiencing sexual abuse involving bodily contact.
The study was conducted on an evidence-based education program for adults about child sexual abuse called Prevent It! and released to the public on Nov. 9.
“When all types of sexual abuse are combined including exposure to pornography or other sexual material, the number of children sexually abused is as high as one in three girls and one in six boys,” said Dr. Peter Silverstone, co-author of the study. “If a program is going to train adults to detect and prevent [child sexual abuse], it has to create significant awareness and behavioural change in the participants.”
The study followed the progress of 312 participants from 23 facilitated workshops, and measured knowledge, attitude, behaviour, and prevention strategies used.
It found that the number of participants actively looking for evidence of abuse in children they worked with increased from 46 per cent at baseline to 81 per cent at follow-up. In addition, the number of participants who actively took steps to protect children increased from 25 per cent at baseline to 48 per cent at follow-up.
The Prevent It! workshop educates participants to stop child sexual abuse by using the following steps: study, talk, observe and prepare for action.
Its advocates said workshop participants continue to demonstrate meaningful and long term behavioural change, which better prepares them to prevent abuse.
“Every day, we salute people who have become their own heroes by healing themselves from sexual abuse, but there are other heroes too – people who are watching out for the most vulnerable segment of our society, our children. Everyone who has children, works with children or cares about children will benefit from participating in this workshop,” said founder and chair of Little Warriors, Glori Meldrum.
The workshop is available several times a year in Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford through facilitator Kylie Philpotts, a Sexual Abuse Intervention Program counsellor.
“Little Warriors is a fantastic program that everyone should take,” she said. “Moms, dads, caregivers, teachers, coaches – I can’t think of one group of people that wouldn’t benefit from this program. Taking the steps to reduce child sexual abuse is our job. If we have the skills to arm our children with the tools they need to stay safe, the statistics would be far lower.”
Philpotts said she is happy to see the program is making a difference in the lives of children and that myths around sexual abuse and exploitation are being dispelled. “I believe strongly that being proactive in risk reduction is far better than being reactive,” she said.