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"Five Percent" Can Protect Maryland Kids from Sexual Abuse

PHOTO: Thousands of Marylanders are being trained through local YMCA outlets to prevent child sexual abuse through the Redwoods Group Foundation and the Stewards of Children program. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith.
PHOTO: Thousands of Marylanders are being trained through local YMCA outlets to prevent child sexual abuse through the Redwoods Group Foundation and the Stewards of Children program. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith.
October 21, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Thousands of Marylanders are being trained to prevent child sexual abuse, in conjunction with local YMCA organizations, part of a national goal to train at least five percent of the country's adult population to serve as a cushion of support for children of all ages.

The Redwoods Group Foundation has been providing grants to cover training costs through their Stewards of Children program. Michael Graves, national director of partnering in prevention at the foundation, says the course goes over the numbers: one in 10 children will be sexually abused before age 18, and 90 percent will be abused by someone they or the family knows and trusts.

"Most perpetrators go through a pretty long grooming process to gain the trust of the child," says Graves. "And in many cases, also the trust of the child's parents and guardians."

Stewards of Children training also identifies what to look for if an adult suspects a child is being abused, and how to have conversations with children about it if the worst is suspected.

Graves says the training is not just for parents, teachers, coaches, or those with regular direct contact with children. He says he wants everyone to consider the training in order to provide neighborhood-level protection for all children.

"This is such an epidemic with such broad consequences to society, it's something that all adults should know about," he says.

The Stewards of Children training can be done online and takes about two hours. Interested participants can contact a local YMCA to see if grant coverage of the cost is available. Without the grant, the program is $10. Training details and additional, free information is available at the Darkness to Light website.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD