The Penn State sexual abuse scandal has shown there are horrific consequences when adults fail to take action to protect children. When NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the sanctions against the university, he said they should serve as “a stark wake-up call for everyone involved in college sports.”

I would like to think this not only wakes up college sports, but all of us as well. We need to recognize that we all are responsible for protecting children from sexual abuse. To keep the kids in your life safe, remember to:

  1. Learn the facts. More than 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser, and as many as 60 percent are abused by people the family trusts. Abusers often try to form a trusting relationship not just with the child, but also with the family.
  2. Minimize opportunity. More that 80 percent of sexual abuse cases occur in one-on-one situations. Many of us have kids involved in clubs and activities. Ask questions about the group’s policies and procedures regarding one-on-one interaction with your kids, and make sure they have guidelines to protect them.
  3. Act on suspicion. If you suspect abuse or believe someone is building a relationship with a child that could lead to abuse, you don’t need proof. Your reasonable suspicion is enough to make a report to local law enforcement or your county’s department of human services. By honoring your suspicions, you are making a choice to put children first.

Visit Awareness to Action to learn more about how you can keep the kids in your life safe. Awareness to Action is an initiative focused on protecting children from sexual abuse by helping adults and communities take action to protect them.

Mary Kleman~ Mary Kleman, prevention manager, Child Advocacy Services, Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin

Awareness to Action is a program of Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin with funding provided by the Child Abuse Prevention Fund and the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund.

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