Now that school is out for the summer, kids will be spending more time at camps, libraries, and parks. Shannon Coffield with the United Way of Central Iowa says those are not automatically safe places from predators. Coffield says, unfortunately, some organizations that serve children don’t always take the steps they should to screen and train their staff.
Laurel Farrell of Des Moines was sexually abused as a child and says parents need to talk to their kids often, so they don’t become victims. Farrell says, "The only thing we do when we hear these tragic stories is say – oh no, that can’t happen to me or that can’t happen to my family or in my neighborhood – but it can and it does, so if I can get across one message – that was me." Coffield says the child sex abuse statistics are alarming. "One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by the age of 18," Coffield says, "and in more than 90-percent of the cases, the child and child’s family know and trust the abuser."
Farrell, who was sexually abused by the brother of a friend, says her parents were very protective and watched her closely. Farrell says she was not allowed to walk to school or play in the front yard, "But no one told me that people I knew could be a potential abuser, I did not know how to deal with that." Adrienne Windley, with the Young Woman’s Resource Center of Central Iowa, says there are several "signs" parents should watch for that might warn them their child could be sexually abused.
She says music lessons, for instance, should be visible to others. "If your child is taking lessons in the back of a store where there’s a door and no window, that should be a red flag," Windley says, "and I’m not saying everyone who teaches music lessons or everyone in that back room is a predator, but it should really be a situation where your child can be seen or you can go in at any time."
The Young Women’s Resource Center is offering training courses on keeping kids safe from sexual predators. The course is geared toward the staff of summer camps, church or school groups, and other groups that work with children. Organizations that are interested, can call 515-244-4901.