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Protecting our children from sexual abuse

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 11:40:06-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mi. — "One out of ten children is sexually abused before their 18th birthday.” – Samantha Akerman, Clinical Supervisor, Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County.

Statistics like that is why the Children’s Advocacy Center exists, to be a safe place young victims of sexual abuse - and provide much needed support to parents and caregivers. It's a topic that's not easy to talk about, but prevention and education start with discussion. April is National Child Abuse Prevention month - the perfect time to start a conversation with your children and your community. "Our goal is always prevention, education we truly believe this was a preventable thing." That may be the goal of the Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County, but right now, Clinical Supervisor Samantha Akerman and her colleagues are busier than they would like to be, dealing with cases of child sexual abuse. She says, "People have this misconception about strangers and about things happening in public places. But the reality is children are sexually abused most often by someone you know, someone within your family, someone that you're friends with, someone within your church or school or community.”

More than 90% of cases involve someone the victim knows. And the CAC is a valuable resource to help those children and their families. “They have a safe place to make a disclosure they’re interviewed by our forensic interviewers, which are specifically trained around how to make a child comfortable and feel safe with making that disclosure and they only have to make it one time. After that, we provide case management services, we provide counseling services, whatever the family needs.”

Of course, no family wants to have to use those services - Akerman says that means starting these talks early and having them often. "The sooner you start having them with your children the easier they're going to be and the more willing your child is going to be to talk to you if something does happen. So having conversations with your children about body safety the correct names for private parts allowing children to come to you and say, hey I wasn't comfortable with something and saying ok not forcing them to do some because you want them to do it.” They have lots of resources here for parents who may need some help on how to start those tough talks.

And should the worst happen, Ackerman says - life can go on. "What we want families and children and really the community to know is that this is a place of hope. These things happen but they're preventable. But if they do happen, we can work through them, we can process that trauma, we can help children alleviate that shame that they're feeling families can heal from this and move on and things can be okay, and people will become happy, healthy adults.” All the services through the Child Advocacy Center are completely free - from preventative information to caregiver counseling to case management services. They say if you have any questions, you can reach out through their website,