Child sexual abuse awareness spread with Darkness to Light

Published 5:51 pm Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Here are some disturbing numbers to consider.

In 2013, there were 77 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Decatur County. In 2014, there were 119 reported cases. There are almost 50 reported sexual abuse cases for children this year already.

While the rise of cases coming to light is worrying, it also tells us that it’s being talked about more than ever before. That’s the mission of the Darkness to Light program in Decatur County, and so far, the program is seeing major steps in the right direction.

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Darkness to Light is partnered with Decatur County Family Connection and serves to equip residents with the information, steps and solutions they need to prevent child sexual abuse.

“This program is education and prevention,” said Elizabeth Whaley, authorized stewards of children facilitator. “This program takes the responsibility off of the child, which is never where it should be, and puts it on the adult.”

Whaley was introduced to the program at a session in Thomasville and wanted to implement it in Decatur County. She brought it before Ronnie Burke, Family Connection coordinator, in 2013. It is now Family Connection’s main initiative in the county.

One of the first targets for the program was the school system, and when superintendent Fred Rayfield was approached about hosting sessions with students, he jumped on it.

The awareness spread quickly from there. Now, 314 people in the school system have gone through a training session, including bus drivers, educators and lunch ladies.

“Basically, you learn the facts, the five steps for prevention, learn how to respond,” Whaley said about the two-hour training session. “You learn the empowerment skills of making choices, taking risks and supporting each other.”

Sessions are held at the YMCA, at local churches and occasionally as open community events. The more people who are aware, the better.

This year, Whaley said the goal for Decatur County is to educate 5 percent of the adult population on child sexual abuse. That’s 1,038 people, and Whaley and her team has already reached 48.52 percent.

“We want everybody in this community to understand we will not tolerate child sexual abuse,” Whaley said. “Perpetrators will flee quickly. We want people to be educated and ask those questions.”

The sessions break down the protection of children from sexual abuse into five simple steps: learning the facts, minimizing opportunity, talking about it, recognizing the sighs and reacting responsibly. Video segments are shown followed by a short discussion period.

“(In two hourse) you get in there, you get out, and we don’t charge anything,” Burke said. “It just gets it on peoples minds.”

The next training session Darkness to Light has planned is back at Bainbridge High School.

For questions or information on holding or joining a Darkness to Light session, contact Whaley at (229) 254-0783 or email at