Experts estimate that one in ten children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Thirty percent are abused by family members, and as many as 60 percent are abused by people the family trusts. About 35 percent of victims are 11 years old or younger.
The Carousel Center has been helping to heal victims of child sexual abuse and their families for more than twenty years. Yet, executive director Amy Feath believes there is much more that can be done.
“We want a coalition of adults – lots of adults – that know how to recognize signs of child abuse, how to respond appropriately, and how to maintain safe environments for children,” she said. Feath believes that if ten percent of Cape Fear adults were aware of the scope of child abuse and how to combat it, the incidents of child abuse would drop significantly. “We see ten percent as the ‘tipping point’ to make meaningful change in our community.”
Feath quotes South African Bishop Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.”
In February 2022, The Carousel Center began its Partners in Prevention program under the direction Rebecca Martin, child abuse outreach coordinator. Martin developed and has conducted several workshops for preventing child sexual abuse. She and has enlisted more than a dozen child-serving organizations to become Partners in Prevention. These organizations are part of the Tri-County Sexual Abuse Prevention Initiative.
The cornerstone of Partners in Prevention is to educate people how to make sure that children are in safe, nurturing environments. The program is designed to minimize the opportunities for abuse, promote healthy child development, and implement strategies to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation.
After several case of sexual abuse over a 12-year period, New Hanover County Schools adopted the program, which is implemented by counselors and facilitators in middle and high schools. Pender and Brunswick county schools have yet to commit.
Feath and Martin want to expand the program to as many youth-serving organizations as possible, including schools, churches, athletic teams, doctors’ offices, and childcare facilities. “Our primary focus is organizations serving kids in kindergarten through fourth grade,” Feath said.
Partners in Prevention is based on training program called “Stewards of Children Ò,” developed by Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization committed to empowering adults to end child sexual abuse. The training highlights five critical steps to protect children:
Learn the Facts: If we don’t understand child sexual abuse, we can’t end it.
Minimize Opportunity: Avoid putting children in isolated one-on-one situations.
Talk About It: Encourage children to talk openly about their bodies, sex, and boundaries. Help them to share and feel safe.
Recognize the Signs: Emotional or behavioral changes are often the most common sign, rather than physical trauma.
Reaction Responsibly: North Carolina law mandates that we report suspicions of sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities.
To sign up for a Partners in Prevention workshop, contact Rebecca Martin at (910) 254-9898 or email her at Rebecca.email@example.com.