Preventing child sexual abuse a county priority

County Executive Greg Edwards is willing to spend a couple of hours to help prevent child sexual abuse. He hopes other area residents will too.

On Thursday, Edwards visited the Child Advocacy Program in Jamestown to register for its Stewards of Children Sexual Abuse Prevention Training, which will take place on April 17 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Though the event is scheduled to take three hours to complete, Jana McDermott, executive director of CAP, said most sessions actually last between two and two and a half hours.

“All you’re asking from me is three hours,” said Edwards. “Here’s what’s running through my head, then: If three hours of my time, once, could potentially lead to preventing a child from being abused, or if it helps me to recognize it and report it so the abuse was less traumatic, why wouldn’t everyone want to invest three hours? It’s one of the opportunities which, I have to believe, people just aren’t aware of. … We really should have the problem of not being able to find enough room to put people (because the event is so well attended). Whether you’re involved in government, church, civic organizations or just in periodic contact with children (you) ought to just take three hours to learn. That’s less time than most people watch television at night.”

The event costs $10 to attend. However, scholarships are readily available for interested individuals who believe the cost is a barrier against attending.

The event is geared to teach adults:

Increased awareness of the prevalence and impact of child sexual abuse;

New skills to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse;

Proactive, positive input to change organizational policies and procedures;

Individual commitment to action via a personal prevention plan.

In support, McDermott estimated the social and economic toll of child abuse in Chautauqua County.

“This is culture changing,” said McDermott. “We all know the human toll, but the economic toll of child abuse is numbing as well. The direct and indirect cost of (child abuse) is about $1.1 million for Chautauqua alone.”

“We all have come in contact with children who have been abused or are at risk, and we all have the influence to prevent it, if we just know the basic information,” said Edwards. “And that’s what we can learn in less than three hours.”

“And we all are paying for the consequences if we don’t do it,” added McDermott. “Both socially and economically.”

Questions about CAP can be answered by calling McDermott or Karen Yeversky at 388-9844 or by email at capadvocate@capjustice.org. For more information about the event, visit www.D2L.org.

“We want to believe the best about people, but everyone has a child that is at risk or has been abused,” said Edwards. “The excuse that, ‘I don’t come in contact with children who have or could be abused,’ is not valid, because we all do every single day. … You can pretend that (child abuse) is not there, but the reality is that it will be there until we stop it.”

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