Southern Oregon Public Television Interviews Cindy McElhinney

Recently I had the privilege to participate via Skype in a recorded interview for Immense Possibilities, a weekly program on Southern Oregon Public Television.  This innovative program shines the light on people and groups solving challenges to create healthier more vibrant communities.  Jeff Golden, the host of the program, put forth the following questions about D2L and the work we do.  My interview will be included in an upcoming episode on child sexual abuse prevention and the work being done in Medford Oregon by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County.

Your organization takes on the challenge of empowering people to actually prevent child abuse.  How do you do that?

We have several approaches aimed at increasing awareness and empowering adults.  But our signature program is built on the idea that there are some fairly simple things that adults can do to prevent child sexual abuse.

The program is called Stewards of Children and is designed to teach adults how to prevent abuse, how to recognize it if it is happening, and how to react and intervene responsibly.  It is for parents and caregivers, teachers, staff and volunteers at youth serving organizations, the faith community and any adult concerned about safety for children.

What are the 7 Steps to Protecting Children?

Step 1 is to learn the facts and understand the risks.  We want people to understand the magnitude and impact of the problem and to debunk some of the common myths.  Adults need to understand where and when abuse happens.

Step 2 is about minimizing the opportunity for abuse by learning what situations are risky and how to put measures in place that can reduce the risk.

Step 3 is Talk about It.  One reason abuse thrives is because of the secrecy and lack of a willingness to talk openly about it.  This step teaches adults how to talk with kids about sexual abuse and other adults.

The remaining steps are about staying alert to the signs and how to act on suspicions of abuse.

Do you think you are making progress and what keeps you going in this work?

Are we making progress?  Yes, all indicators point to a decline in the number of sexual abuse cases and increased awareness and education is part of the reason for this.  It means the work we are doing is making a difference.  There is also more attention than ever before in the media, more willingness to talk about it and more discussion about how we can prevent it.  That’s what keeps me going…to see more progress; ultimately fewer children being abused.  We are working for this by helping more and more communities like Medford adopt prevention strategies and get more people involved and educated.

What is the immense possibility (e.g., the greatest, most impactful imaginable outcome over time) of the work you do?

Immense possibility of course is that children are not abused and therefore able to grow up healthy and whole with their sexual boundaries in tact.  For us it means educating more and more adults that we create a tipping point where we can actually change culture around this issue….that safety and protection from abuse is a commonplace as the use of car seats and seat belts.

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