Darkness to Light seemed like a good organization for us to get involved with, says Leandra Lambert, especially after what happened at Penn State.
Of course, Liz Baker agrees. Child sexual abuse is everywhere.
The two women are members of the Johnson Intern Program, a Chapel Hill-based initiative that selects eight purposeful young adults from around the country to serve for 10 months in local nonprofit organizations.
The Johnson Interns live together in whats called an intentional community. They share meals, rooms, housekeeping, and are paid a very small stipend.
Each intern is trained and supervised at one of several work placements in Chapel Hill, among them Club Nova, The Womens Center, and The Redwoods Group.
They also join forces to work on a project of their choosing designed to benefit the community.
This years interns have decided to promote the highly lauded Stewards of Children program, a seven-step curriculum developed by the Charleston, S.C.-based nonprofit Darkness to Light.
The programs mission: To Empower People to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
Heres how they describe their approach: Our programs raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
All eight of the Johnson Interns have taken the three-hour training, which is free to the general public and offered regularly, right here in Chapel Hill.
And guess what?
The interns want you to take it every one of you adults who is reading this column.
Recently I sat around with a group of them at their no-frills dining room table in Carrboro, listening to their raves about Stewards of Children.
I have such a greater awareness now, said intern Steph Gans. The personal stories in the training open your eyes to how this happens, to how easily pedophiles can get access to children.
And you become so much more attentive to whats going on around you, added James Helton, to all the ways children can be exposed and hurt.
Statistics show that 90 percent of childhood sexual-abuse cases involve someone the child knows. One in four girls and one in six boys experience abuse before the age of 18.
You also learn how to help children create and maintain good body boundaries, said Meg Boyle. For example, children should not be forced by friends and relatives, even parents, to give hugs unless they want to.
The Stewards of Children approach tries to protect children from sexual abuse by placing responsibility squarely on adult shoulders.
One of the Interns, Drew Bonner, is doing his placement at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA, a local sponsor for the training. The Y has a goal of training 1,500 adults a year. And then some.
To help reach that goal, the Interns are contacting local PTA presidents, sports leagues, church groups, and UNC programs. They are manning tables at community events and distributing materials.
Even if your workplace has a sexual-abuse prevention program, it should also offer this one, says Meg. It gives you great tools to use everywhere in your life, whether youre a manager, a parent, a teacher, a volunteer or a babysitter.
I would never harm a child, I know that, says Steph, so I really hadnt thought a lot about the issues. The training helped me to see that by not being aware and willing to get involved, I could inadvertently be part of the problem.
Did you know that for every adult who takes the Stewards of Children training, 10 children are protected?
And did you know that April is National Child Abuse Prevention month?
Im signing up for the training.