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By Mara Koch
Special to The SUN
If you follow the headlines, you know that child sexual abuse happens.
It happens often and close to home.
This reality can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that child sexual abuse can be prevented when we all play our part.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and, this April, communities across the country are standing up for child sexual abuse prevention by proclaiming, “It’s time … to talk about it!”
All adults have a role in child sexual abuse prevention, and this year’s campaign encourages individuals and communities to support healthy childhood sexual development by talking early, talking often and taking action.
By learning and talking about healthy childhood sexual development, adults are able to support the children in their lives. When adults support age-appropriate behaviors, model healthy boundaries and speak up to other adults, they are an ally to prevention. It’s also our job to respect children, model healthy behaviors and boundaries, and confront adults when they act in ways that are not appropriate.
There is often silence and discomfort when it comes to the discussion of sexual development. It’s important to understand that this is a normal experience we all share. By opening up communication, sharing age-appropriate information with children, and educating one another — we are taking steps toward a safer community. (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2013.)
In Pagosa Springs, Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP) is choosing to begin those conversations about healthy childhood sexual development. They encourage all community members to start talking early and often to children to support an environment where children are safe.
ACVAP hosted a table at the Kid’s Fair, Saturday, April 20. They provided parents with information regarding healthy childhood sexual development and age-appropriate suggestions for talking with children about these issues.
About 50 children and their parents had the opportunity to make, “Pinwheels for Prevention.” In conjunction with nationwide child abuse prevention efforts, pinwheels symbolize a new “spin” on prevention that focuses on community activities. Such efforts lay the foundation for children’s healthy growth and development through public education and changing community norms around healthy sexuality.
For more information on how you can talk about healthy sexual development with your children and prevent child sexual abuse, call ACVAP’s 24-hour hotline at 264-9075.
It’s time … to talk about it!