Protect Your Child
April is the month Iowa recognizes child abuse prevention. While April gives many people time to reflect on positive changes in abuse prevention programs, it also highlights memories of personal experiences of abuse and of loved ones who have been hurt by such abuse. As the Sexual Abuse Education Director for Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS), I educate children and adults on the dangers of sexual abuse, ways adults can help prevent child sexual abuse, and the importance of seeking professional help to heal after abuse has occurred.
Sexual abuse never affects just one person. The fact that over 96% of sex offenders are known to the child or family makes disclosure difficult for many. It is vital that families seek support services such as counseling to aid with emotional and behavioral issues that can often result from abuse. Seeking counseling will help empower parents by supplying them with the tools and support needed for healing. This healing process must occur for all who were affected to ensure that the cycle of abuse does not continue. Parents who have been sexually abused as a child are at greater risk of having their own children sexually abused. Research shows parents who were sexually abused as children are less comfortable talking to their children about this topic. This silence puts children in great danger of being tricked and manipulated by sexual predators. Parents need to take opportunities given to them to educate themselves as well as heal from their own history of abuse to effectively protect their children.
One of the opportunities CAPS provides is an adult education session titled, Nurturing Healthy Sexual Development. This program provides parents information on statistics of sexual abuse, normal vs. problematic child sexual development, and tips for parents regarding how to talk to their children about the private parts of their bodies. Parents will quickly learn through this program that open comfortable communication is the key ingredient to preventing child sexual abuse. This open and comfortable communication is ongoing and takes practice. Parents often repeat parental behavior they experienced as a child. Parents must ask themselves what they want to pass down to their children and what they would like to change. I remind parents that what children don't know can hurt them.
CAPS is attacking the silence that has suffocated so many innocent lives. Our programs emphasize the fact that children are not capable of protecting themselves and parents must step up to the plate. Parents who do not talk to their children about this topic or give inaccurate messages such as private parts are bad or focus on stranger danger are putting their children at great risk. We are committed to the prevention of child sexual abuse with a belief that Education is Power. If you would like more information on protecting your children call CAPS at 641-752-1730 or toll free at 1-800-470-7658.
Dawna Heil, Sexual Abuse Education
811 East Main Street
Marshalltown, IA 50158