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Looking at the world differently
By Ken Burger
The Post and Courier
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Can 10 people gathered in a small room on a Friday afternoon save a child from the nightmarish hell of living with the scars of sexual abuse?
Yes and no.
They might save more.
Someone taking the Darkness To Light training session may recognize a problem before it starts, scare a predator away with aggressive action or educate another parent about the warning signs.
But the people in the room could touch 10 children's lives with this delicate and important information.
Kevin Walsh is executive director of the St. Andrews Parish Parks and Playground, a place where thousands of kids and hundreds of volunteer coaches come to play games and grow into mature adults.
A soft-spoken man, Walsh volunteers to teach these "Stewards of Children" seminars to teachers, coaches, volunteers, anybody with responsibility for our youth.
Why? Because he knows the reality. One in four girls will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. As will one in six boys.
Anne Lee started Darkness To Light here in the Lowcountry 10 years ago and has trained more than 19,000 teachers in South Carolina, and it has spread to 42 states and 10 countries. One class at a time.
To contact Darkness to Light, dial 843-965-5444 or visit their web site
Each session takes more than two hours and changes your perspective about children and the people around them. Truth is, it makes you look at the world differently. You can't help it.
It makes you realize how widespread the problem of abuse really is. And, more painfully, that society has passively accepted it, deliberately overlooked it.
You grimace when you hear that 40 percent of victims are abused by family members. That 90 percent know their abusers. While we worry openly about the dirty old man in the park, we seldom discuss uncle Al.
The answers to stopping this plague are responsibility and courage.
The Darkness To Light training session makes you acknowledge some uncomfortable realities. But it also deputizes each participant to become part of the solution.
By learning the facts. Could you spot an abuser?
By minimizing opportunity. Abusers groom their victims and their families before they act.
By talking about it. Kids don't know they can say no.
By staying alert. Learn how to spot signs of abuse.
By making a plan. Believe the child. Very few reported incidents are false.
By acting on suspicions. Trust your intuition. Ask questions.
By getting involved. This is a huge human challenge that can be impacted by collective power if you know what to do.
Sadly, child abuse is a generational curse. But it can be stopped if we shine a light on the problem and expose it. Abusers depend on our innocence. They hide in plain sight.
When this session was over, Kevin Walsh walked out into the warmth of the afternoon, hoping he'd made a difference.
He shouldn't have to wonder. No one in that room will ever look at the world the same way again. They simply can't.
Reach Ken Burger at email@example.com.
To read more columns by Ken Burger, click here.