March 17, 2008

Kaufman County mom sees seminar as way to help others protect kids from sexual abuse

Kaufman County: After seminar, mom hopes to help others protect kids

09:35 AM CDT on Saturday, March 15, 2000
By RICHARD ABSHIRE / The Dallas Morning News

Predators aren't easy to spot.
MIKE STONE/Special Contributor
MIKE STONE/Special Contributor

Anne Ferguson (center) of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center
comments as Sara Cantu (left) and Barbara Landregan work through a
role-playing exercise during a recent Stewards of Children seminar on
child abuse detection and prevention.

But Brandy Walker knows the signs – and she's made it her personal
mission to spread the word on how to identify those who victimize
"I think if we educate people, it's the first
line of defense," Ms. Walker said recently after finishing a Stewards
of Children train-the-trainer seminar given by the Dallas Children's
Advocacy Center.
Ms. Walker, a single mother with a
10-year-old son, a 14-year-old daughter, and a full-time job with a
consulting firm, makes the time to speak to groups throughout Kaufman
County about protecting children from sexual abuse.
"The profile of a predator is that there's no profile," Ms. Walker said. "It could be anybody."

Most abusers are friends or family members. People who prey on children
– mostly men – usually rely on charm and guile to get close to their
In a process called "grooming," they befriend or
romance a single parent and feign a wholesome interest in the child.
They volunteer to help supervise or entertain kids in the family,
informally or by acting as coaches or counselors in youth-oriented
Child sex abuse sometimes progresses from viewing
pornography to inappropriate touching to sex. It's all criminal, and
too often goes unreported.
Darkness to Light, a South
Carolina-based organization that provides training materials on
preventing and reacting to child sexual abuse, cites a study by the
Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of
Texas at Austin that found that 9 percent of female Texans were
assaulted before the age of 14.
Another study cited by
the group found that embarrassment is the most common reason children
do not report abuse and that a close relationship to the offender makes
prompt reporting less likely.
Child sexual abuse victims
may show physical signs – bruises or bleeding, for example. Or their
behavior may change: They may withdraw or act out. Children who have
stopped bed-wetting may regress.
The kind of information Ms. Walker teaches is not meant to frighten children or parents.

"There's a way to teach this where it's not intimidating," she said.
"It's empowering. It's telling people it's OK to say 'no.' "

Armed with knowledge, children who are abused are more likely to
recognize that it is wrong and report it to parents, teachers or other
Ms. Walker credited the Kaufman County Sheriff's
Department for its support of her efforts and for the job it does
keeping track of registered sex offenders.
Sgt. Bryan
Francis, a spokesman for the department, said that local cases have
followed national patterns. Victims tend to be easily accessible to
offenders, who often live in the home or have close associations with
the victim's family.
Already in 2008, Kaufman County has logged a conviction for murder and rape of a juvenile.

Two child sexual abuse cases are pending in the county, according to
Sgt. Francis. One involves alleged possession of child pornography by a
teacher. The other involves child porn and assault allegations against
a registered sex offender.
In 2007, one defendant pleaded
guilty to indecency and assault on his stepdaughter. Another, found
guilty of sexually abusing his granddaughters, was sentenced to four
99-year prison terms.
In 2006, a man pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a neighbor and was sentenced to 30 years.

At the Stewards of Children training session, Anne Ferguson of the
Dallas Children's Advocacy Center led discussions based on material
provided by Darkness to Light.
Ms. Ferguson said the
session was designed to prepare attendees to make presentations to
groups – churches, sports teams and leagues, schools, parents, service
organizations, homeowners associations, Scouts and even licensing
boards – "anybody that works with kids."
She went around the room asking why students had come to the class.
"Because I saw a need," said Jerry Waynant of the Child Abuse Prevention Coalition.
"It felt like a calling," said Ana Lilia Aguirre, who works at a Dallas church.

"I felt like this can totally, dramatically improve my ministry at the
orphanage," said Sara Salguero, a house parent at a Guatemalan
orphanage. "I see the results of [abuse] every day."
material includes philosophical principles and practical tools, but Ms.
Ferguson told the class that what mattered most was commitment.

"The most important ingredient of your success as a facilitator is to
know what you are passionate about," she said. "Always go back to why
you do it – for the safety of children."
To help prevent child sexual abuse:

• Learn the facts and understand the risks.
• Minimize opportunity.
• Talk about it with children and adults.
• Stay alert.
• Make a plan – where to go, whom to tell.
• Act on suspicions.
• Get involved.
Possible consequences of child sexual abuse:

• Drug and alcohol dependence
• Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder
• Eating and sleep disorders
• Teen pregnancy

Blogged with the Flock Browser

No comments:

Post a Comment