GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — We talked to Sarah Zuidema at the Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County about how to spot and stop child sexual abuse.
The 3rd Annual Summit to Stop Child Sexual Abuse was scheduled for April 1st; day one of Child Abuse Awareness Month, but COVID-19 concerns have pushed it back to September 30th. Organizers, however, know the message they are trying to spread is too important to put off.
With children home during the virus, it's a good time to check in and make sure they are safe. The Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County says they do have concerns and say right now it is all the more important to keep the conversation open when it comes to potential abuse.
Talking with your kids about good and bad touches and making sure communication is always open is especially important be cause the CAC says children may be left in the care of different people as parents rush to find different caregivers to cover for parents working during the outbreak.
Sarah Zuidema, Program Director for the CAC says there are a few things you can do to help keep your kids safe.
"We know that, ...with all of the sort of sudden quarantine and kids being home from school, parents not really anticipating that, their schedules might be very different, they might need to find different child care arrangements, it can be confusing, it can be really hard to sort out and understand what the best... what is really best for their kids and they don't have a lot of time to do that." Zuidema says.
Zuidema says limiting screen-time, turning off chat capabilities and location services, and making sure your child understands who they can come to if something were to happen are top on the priority list to keep potential predators at-bay.
"We have spent a lot of time just here talking about ways to really keep your kids safe or reduce the risk that they might have if they're spending more time alone than usual or if they're with care givers that parents might not know or be able to vet as well." Zuidema told FOX 17.
The key is always talking to your kids, explaining to them the differences between good and bad touches and underlining that you will believe them if they say something happened. Zuidema also suggests helping your child understand the difference between a good secret and a bad secret and empowering them to keep reporting abuse until it's stopped.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County wants to empower parents and community leaders to create safe environments for children and offers resources for anyone needing help talking to their children or taking the next steps if they suspect a child has been abused. Parents can also call Child Protective Services at 855-444-3911 or their local police for help.