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The safety of children after the holiday season

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With the holiday season having come and gone, we reflect on the joyous time spent with family and the smiles of our children as they gleamed upon Christmas lights and new toys. As we begin a new year and children return to school in Denton County, it is also time to keep an open ear to what our children talk about.

The holiday season brings many friends, family and new acquaintances into our homes. Thus, critical conversations about abuse (sexual or physical) may arise at school or at home.

The Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County (CACDC) wants to share some simple tips from Darkness to Light, a child abuse prevention organization CACDC partners with to educate community members about this issue and steps to help prevent the unthinkable.

1.)    Learn the facts and understand the risks.   Visit D2L.org for statistics on prevalence of abuse, effects of abuse, and the reality of child sexual abuse.  This will help influence your decisions regarding children.

2.)    When possible, minimize the opportunity by avoiding one-child/one-adult situations.  Choose group situations when possible.  This may be the most important measure you can take during the holidays.

3.)    Talk about it.  It is important to open up the lines of communication with your children about their bodies and about what is appropriate and not appropriate for someone to touch or say to your child.  If they feel uncomfortable about anything, allow your child to be comfortable telling you.   It is also important for you, as a parent, to make it safe for a child to tell.  Try to be calm in how you react to what children tell you, no matter what the subject.  Children and teens sometimes test parents to determine whether we are safe to talk to.

4.)    Stay alert to the signs of sexual abuse.  Be aware.  Visit credible websites for signs and symptoms of abuse in children.  Examples of such websites include nationalchildrensalliance.org, d2l.org, and cacdc.org.

5.)    Make a plan – learn where to go, whom to call, and how to react.  To report child abuse in Texas, call the child abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400 and contact the law enforcement agency in the community in which the abuse occurred.    The first step to stopping child sexual abuse and to stopping others from getting hurt is to report it.   You can be assured that children in Denton County will be in the best possible hands if this unfortunate situation happens.

6.)    Act on Suspicions.  The future well-being of a child and other children are at stake.  In Texas, you just have to suspect abuse in order to report it.  Err on the side of being proactive in protecting children.  How many children could have been saved if the first person who has suspicions about Jerry Sandusky would have reported the abuse?

7.)    Get connected.  Volunteer and financially support organizations that fight child sexual abuse.  In Denton County, that organization is the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County.  For more information, visit www.cacdc.org.  You can start with a tour to learn more.  Our primary office is located in Lewisville off FM 407.

At the Children’s Advocacy Center, over 92% of the cases seen by the agency involve child sexual abuse.  99% of those cases involve suspicions of abuse by someone the child or family trusted and not by a stranger which is what most people assume.

January is one of the busiest times of the year for the Children’s Advocacy Center because it’s right after the holiday season and when children go back to school and confide in teachers and counselors about incidents of abuse. Visit www.cacdc.org or call (972) 317-2818 if you have any questions about reporting abuse.

Dan Leal is the Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County.  For more information call 1-866-875-1015 or 972-317-2818.

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