Darkness to Light: 5 steps to protecting children From sexual abuse


“Darkness to Light” is a nationwide initiative designed to teach caregivers and community members how to protect children by teaching them steps to Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse.

Step 1: Learn the Facts

It is likely that you know a child who has been abused or is currently being abuse. 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center in 2012:

• 90 percent of children who are victims of child sexual abuse know their abuser.

• 60 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by people the family trusts.

• 30 percent of children are sexually abused by family members.

• 40 percent of children are sexually abused by older or more powerful children.

• 10 percent or less of children are sexually abused by a stranger.

• 35 percent of child sexual abuse victims are 11 years old or younger.

Step 2: Minimize Opportunity

Eighty percent or more of child sexual abuse incidents happen in isolated, one-on-one situations. Offenders groom and manipulate children.

Grooming behaviors include:

• Special attention, outings, and gifts.

• Isolating the child from others.

• Filling the child’s unmet needs.

• Filling needs and roles within the family.

• Treating the child as if he or she is older.

• Gradually crossing physical boundaries, and becoming increasingly intimate and sexual.

• Using secrecy, blame, and threats to maintain control.

Below are ways you can minimize opportunity:

• Eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations with children. Choose group situations and have multiple adults supervise whenever possible.

• Scan the physical environment for hidden and secluded areas, and correct dangers.

• Make sure interactions can be observed and interrupted.

• Anticipate situational risks that occur during youth activities. A “situational risk” occurs when youth activities create unusual circumstances, decreased structure and supervision, or increased potential for boundary violations.

• Remember that older youth should not be in isolated, one-on-one situations in youth serving settings.

The Internet can be an unsafe one-on-one environment where offenders can groom children and lure them into meeting them. Keep your computer in a public area of your home, like your den or your kitchen, where you can see who your children are talking to on the Internet. Talk to your children about using the internet safely.

It is also important for organizations to have a code of conduct. A code of conduct describes how staff and volunteers will conduct themselves with children. Do not be afraid to ask if an organization has a code of conduct and what their policies are in regards to one on one contact with children.

Step 3: Talk About It

Offenders exploit children’s innocence. They use children’s lack of knowledge to keep them compliant, ashamed and silent. It is important for parents to have age-appropriate, open, honest conversations with their children about their bodies and personal boundaries.

According to the “Darkness to Light” training manual, there are many reasons why children are afraid to “tell:”

• The abuser may threaten the child or a family member.

• The abuser may shame the child, say that the child let it happen, or tell the child that their parents will be angry.

• The abuser may try to confuse the child about what is right or wrong.

• Some children who did not disclose the first time may be afraid or ashamed to tell when it happens again.

• Children are afraid of hurting their parents and family.

• Some children are too young to understand.

• Many abusers tell children the abuse is “okay” or “a game.”

To report child abuse and neglect call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-237-0004 or contact your local Police Department.

You can support the “Darkness to Light” Project by bringing the training to your church, business, school, PTO, or civic group. Learn the facts and do everything you can do to prevent your own children and grandchildren from being sexually abused.

To schedule a Darkness to Light training, please contact Amy Burke-Salyers at Ashley’s Place (615) 451-2169.

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