Darkness to Light reaches tipping point

Published 5:08 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy is excited to announce Decatur County, Georgia has reached a huge milestone in child sexual abuse prevention. As of July, 25, 2018, Decatur County has reached tipping point.

Elizabeth Whaley and other volunteers for Darkness to Light Stewards of Children, a childhood sexual abuse prevention program, have worked tirelessly since June 2013 to train and educate five percent of the adult population about childhood sexual abuse. They met their goal in July, training approximately 1,028 adults. Now, their hope is to train 10 percent.

Stewards of Children really focused in on their efforts to train five percent of the population, because research shows that once five percent of an adult population in a community changes their behavior, a cultural shift is created and a momentum builds that, with continued work, will change societal norms.

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Whaley has seen that happen in the Decatur County community. The number of reported cases at the Childhood Advocacy Center has gone up, which is considered a good thing. Whaley said this means people are reporting it instead of hiding it and that adults are recognizing the signs and picking up when something is wrong.

“The Decatur County School System has been especially involved in the trainings,” Whaley said. “Nearly 400 faculty members have been trained over the years.”

Whaley only expects the number to rise since the passing of Aaron’s Law. Regional prevention manager, Katherine Jones explains that Aaraon’s Law requires public school teachers to have training for prevention of sexual abuse, and Stewards of Children is the recommendation for Decatur County training.

The training teaches adults how to prevent and recognize. The class lays out a five-step plan on how to protect children. Trainees hear from survivors, and the hope is they go home and tell others what they learn and start a ripple effect in the community.

This advocacy for children is especially important to Whaley and reminds her of why she started this program. She mentored a child who was a victim of sexual abuse, so she sought out advice on how to help him. She was at a Family Connection Collaborative when Stewards of Children training was mentioned. She attended the training in Thomasville and brought the idea to Ronnie Burke about starting training in Bainbridge and that is how it all began.

She prayed about it with other community members and now has five other individuals who help train adults and pray over the children with her.

Whaley said she is truly so grateful for those who have joined her in advocating for the children in Decatur County and the Stewards of Children never would have reached the tipping point without them.

Ronnie Burke of Family Connection is also thankful for the donations made by United Way, because of those donations Family Connection is able to give money to Stewards of Children. This money allows Whaley and others to train people for free, otherwise some people may not have access to the information needed.

“We want people to understand we will not tolerate children being sexually abused,” Burke said. “We will protect them, we will set up a network for them to get what they need.” 

Whaley will be hosting another training session on Friday, September 21 at the library from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. People interested can register by emailing elizabethkwhaley@gmail.com.