Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility

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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and youth-serving organizations across the country have been working this month to raise awareness and understanding about a topic that needs more attention in more communities: child sexual abuse.

Statistics reveal that about 1 in 10 children in the United States will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Sadly, in more than 90 percent of reported cases, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts.

The YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, along with other YMCAs across the country, will sponsor Five Days of Action for Child Abuse Prevention the week of April 24–28. During this week our Y will share information and resources with the community about how to recognize, prevent and report child sexual abuse.

While we are placing a special emphasis on this topic during the month of April, the protection of youth from abuse is our Y’s top priority every single day of the year.

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That’s because keeping kids safe from abuse is essential to their healthy development. Studies show that children who experience adverse childhood experiences like sexual abuse are more likely to adopt risky behaviors like smoking and drug use, develop chronic health conditions such as depression and heart disease, underperform academically and die early.

Also, abuse doesn’t discriminate. It happens to children of all ages, genders, races, faiths and socioeconomic classes. It is a broad-based, too-common crime in our country today.

The good news is that child sexual abuse is preventable, and at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, we have taken this message to heart.

We have spent the last year updating our policies and best practices to reflect the latest research and trends in abuse prevention. This includes creating a staff position dedicated to abuse risk management for our entire organization.

All YMCA staff and volunteers are screened carefully at the time of hire and trained in Child Abuse Prevention and Appropriate Touch. In addition, all YMCA members are screened against the National Sex Offender Public Registry to help ensure no one can access the Y facility with the intention of abusing a child.

Every staff member at the Y is a mandated reporter who is trained to identify and respond to inappropriate behavior. These conversations can be difficult for everyone involved. To the extent that we can, we make a point to include families in the reporting process should we determine a report must be made.

Hundreds of children walk through the Y’s doors every day. We are fully committed to doing our part to keep youth protected from abuse in our community, and we are asking you to join us.

Please stop by our facility during the Five Days of Action from April 24 through 28, or visit us during Healthy Kids Day, April 29 from noon to 3 p.m. to learn more about how you can get involved in this important effort.

I encourage everyone to start today. You can help the children in your life learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch, and model healthy boundaries. That means listening to our children and respecting when they say “No” to unwanted physical contact.

As a community, we have an obligation to nurture our children and protect their only childhood. We must prevent child sexual abuse to live up to this obligation.

Mary Murphy is Chief Human Resources & Risk Management Officer at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, where she has worked for more than 25 years.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and youth-serving organizations across the country have been working this month to raise awareness and understanding about a topic that needs more attention in more communities: child sexual abuse.

Statistics reveal that about 1 in 10 children in the United States will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Sadly, in more than 90 percent of reported cases, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts.

The YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, along with other YMCAs across the country, will sponsor Five Days of Action for Child Abuse Prevention the week of April 24–28. During this week our Y will share information and resources with the community about how to recognize, prevent and report child sexual abuse.

While we are placing a special emphasis on this topic during the month of April, the protection of youth from abuse is our Y’s top priority every single day of the year.

That’s because keeping kids safe from abuse is essential to their healthy development. Studies show that children who experience adverse childhood experiences like sexual abuse are more likely to adopt risky behaviors like smoking and drug use, develop chronic health conditions such as depression and heart disease, underperform academically and die early.

Also, abuse doesn’t discriminate. It happens to children of all ages, genders, races, faiths and socioeconomic classes. It is a broad-based, too-common crime in our country today.

The good news is that child sexual abuse is preventable, and at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, we have taken this message to heart.

We have spent the last year updating our policies and best practices to reflect the latest research and trends in abuse prevention. This includes creating a staff position dedicated to abuse risk management for our entire organization.

All YMCA staff and volunteers are screened carefully at the time of hire and trained in Child Abuse Prevention and Appropriate Touch. In addition, all YMCA members are screened against the National Sex Offender Public Registry to help ensure no one can access the Y facility with the intention of abusing a child.

Every staff member at the Y is a mandated reporter who is trained to identify and respond to inappropriate behavior. These conversations can be difficult for everyone involved. To the extent that we can, we make a point to include families in the reporting process should we determine a report must be made.

Hundreds of children walk through the Y’s doors every day. We are fully committed to doing our part to keep youth protected from abuse in our community, and we are asking you to join us.

Please stop by our facility during the Five Days of Action from April 24 through 28, or visit us during Healthy Kids Day, April 29 from noon to 3 p.m. to learn more about how you can get involved in this important effort.

I encourage everyone to start today. You can help the children in your life learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch, and model healthy boundaries. That means listening to our children and respecting when they say “No” to unwanted physical contact.

As a community, we have an obligation to nurture our children and protect their only childhood. We must prevent child sexual abuse to live up to this obligation.

Mary Murphy is chief human resources and risk management officer at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, where she has worked for more than 25 years.

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