Families First - Families First AprilMay2017

Charity Spotlight

Hannah Rodriguez 2017-04-05 02:51:23

SPEAKING UP TO END Child Sexual Abuse Child sexual abuse has no demographic boundary. It is just as likely to occur in our small, rural communities as it is in larger, more urban areas. The rates are the same regardless of race, class or geography. Nationally, one in ten children is sexually abused before his or her 18th birthday. In the Grand Traverse Region, authorities respond to child sexual abuse cases on a daily basis. And how many assaults take place that go unreported? Sadly, perhaps the majority of them. The Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center (TBCAC) is a regional response center for the protection and wellbeing of children. At the TBCAC, multi-disciplinary teams of professionals work together to investigate child abuse, help children heal and hold offenders accountable. Over 1,200 children in our region have been referred to the TBCAC since 2010; 300 during 2016 alone. The issue of child sexual abuse needs to come out of the darkness and into the light so that we can create a new culture, a new community of awareness and action. To end child sexual abuse, we need to work together; we must act as a team. Team Zero is a program of the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center. Its purpose is to arm the community with facts, tools, and resources to bring the rate of child sexual abuse to zero. Nearly 4,000 individuals and over 100 organizations have joined Team Zero by acquiring the knowledge and skills to keep all children safe. Many members of Team Zero serve in a leadership capacity. Traverse City Area Public Schools has taken monumental steps toward protecting our children by educating all staff, in every role and position, about what it takes to create safe and healthy schools for kids. Faculty from Northwestern Michigan College and the University Center have incorporated child sexual abuse prevention education into their curriculum to provide students from all walks of life with the tools and the knowledge to protect and advocate for our next generation. Grand Traverse Pie Company is committed to making Team Zero’s mission of ending child sexual abuse front and center for every customer who buys a slice of pie, and has been a leader in exemplifying what it means to be a part of the team that is making a difference. After decades of looking the other way, our society is speaking up for children. It’s our collective responsibility to the most vulnerable among us to act on their behalf. If we don’t protect children, who will? A movement is only a movement when our friends, neighbors, and co-workers know about it. And this movement needs YOU. Informed adults can go far in keeping children safe from harm. The more we know how child sexual abuse happens, the more we can protect the children in our care. Joining the Team Zero movement means taking time to acquaint yourself with the issue of child sexual abuse, acquiring skills that will help keep children safe, and sharing this information with others. Team Zero is here to help every adult learn how to: TALK about sexual health and body safety with our children, and with each other. It is never too early to start talking. Open conversations about bodies and boundaries are what keep children safe from harm. PROTECT children from sexual abuse by understanding the issue, limiting the risk for child sexual abuse to occur, and trusting our guts when they tell us something feels wrong. REPORT abuse and suspicious behavior. The only reason a child gets to the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and receives the specialized care that they need is because a responsible adult knew how to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse and how to report it to the appropriate authorities. Northern Michigan is a beautiful place, a wonderful region in which to live and work. Let’s work together—as a team—to make sure it’s also a region where no child faces the pain of sexual abuse alone and where every adult has the knowledge and skills to speak up and speak out to keep children safe. For more information about how to join the Team that makes a difference, visit www. weareteamzero.org. If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, please call the Michigan DHHS Centralized Intake Line at 855-444-3911 to make a report. Hannah Rodriguez has served as Prevention Coordinator with the TBCAC since May of 2014. She earned her Master’s in Social Work through Michigan State University.

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