Program Manager: Mary Smith
Program: People typically think of adult rape as a major crime and are unaware that children are victimized at a much higher rate than adults. Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults occur to children ages 17 and under. Research shows that people who were sexually violated as children are far more likely to experience psychological problems often lasting into adulthood, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, substance abuse, relationship problems, and suicide. Victims of childhood sexual abuse don’t just suffer emotionally: they also suffer physically. Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences. One of the most proactive and pragmatic approaches to diminishing child sexual abuse is the education of responsible adults. Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training is a sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. It is an award-winning training program that is evidence-based and is appropriate for organizations, businesses, and individuals who want to protect children. The training also teaches individuals about the circumstances under which child sexual abuse occurs and which factors increase a child’s risk, as well as the immediate and long-term consequences of child sexual abuse. Over 90% of the victims of sexual abuse are abused by someone they know, often trust, and sometimes even love.
Services: More than 5,500 individuals in Whitfield and Murray County have received the 2 ½ hour-long training. Over 500 have participated in the supplemental modules. The staff members of all local school systems were trained a few years ago. Over 200 adults, primarily men, took part in Church Safety Summits during a two-month period in 2018 in Whitfield County and Murray County, and one in Spanish. Another Church Safety Summit was held in early March 2019 with 51 church leaders attending. A fifth Summit took place in February 2020 with 27 attendees. Most of the participants in the Summits are men, often leaders in their churches. The Summits were provided in partnership with local law enforcement, United Way, and the Family Support Council. There are more summits planned for the future.
Program Funding: This program currently receives funding from United Way of Northwest Georgia, and private donations.
The following comments were made by local United Way volunteers and staff after receiving the training:
“The Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children training is a powerful reminder of the importance of prevention and intervention with regard to the sexual abuse of children. The program pulls you into the lives of survivors and puts on display the emotional, personal and socio-economic costs to wearing blinders. This program rips those blinders off, helps you to recognize the signs and feel confident that you know how to react responsibly. “
“’About 1 in 10 children experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.’ Darkness to Light training does not just raise awareness of this terrible statistic, it teaches responsible adults how to spot the warning signs and what to do about it in the best interest of the child. Children are our most precious resource and deserve to grow up in a safe environment. I strongly recommend this course to anyone who really cares about the future of our society.”
“Darkness to Light training was very eye-opening concerning child abuse. This training is a must for any parents, any youth group administrators, any teachers, anyone interested in preventing child abuse. I wish that I had completed this training years ago when my own children were younger.”
“The D2L training exposes each participant to a side of our society that we find hard to believe and equally difficult to deal with. But the training gives you definitive steps to take to join in the fight to prevent this kind of intolerable treatment of our children. “
“Everyone deals in some way with kids during their lifetime as parent, teacher, neighbor, Sunday school teacher, something...Becoming aware of how to protect our kids is a way of contributing to our community and making it a better, safer place to live. Although at times this training made me hurt for the people sharing their stories, it was a lesson in awareness, compassion, responsibility and prevention. One of my favorite sayings is, "It takes a village to raise a child" ---We could easily substitute raise for protect. This training helped me know how to better protect children, and in turn, the village.”
“This was very eye opening. I think it should be mandatory training for all churches to participate.”
“Hearing individual survival stories was very impactful. Listening to the them describe what had happened to them drove home to me the responsibility community members have to protect our children. I had the opportunity to volunteer at Camp AIM recently and as I sat through the training, I saw the faces of the victims who I had served at camp. This training delivers the tools to make our area safer for the most vulnerable and innocent, our children.”
“The Darkness to Light training was very eye opening for me. I was shocked by the statistic that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused. All of the victims featured in the video could have been spared the abuse if someone around them had noticed the signs and taken action to remove them from the situation. I hope that everyone in our community will take this training. If we can keep even one child from being sexually abused, the 2.5 hours will be well spent!”
“1 in 10. Can you live with this number? 1 in 10 children have their innocence ripped away from them. If you could prevent just one child from enduring this fate, would you? You will not leave this program unchanged. “
“I made myself get trained. I didn’t want to because this subject is just too hard. But now I am glad I did. I feel more confident that I can actually keep children safe and prevent child sexual abuse. Now I will be vigilant and aware of appropriate boundaries.”