‘Parent Cafés’ in Springfield, Holyoke to Address Child Sexual Abuse

SPRINGFIELD — Parents will discuss what adults can do to protect their children from child sexual abuse at a series of ‘parent cafés’ titled “Keeping Privates Private” to be held in Springfield and Holyoke throughout April.

The events, sponsored by the Prevention Collaboration — a community-based group organized out of the Family Advocacy Center at Baystate Children’s Hospital — are being held in conjunction with Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The Prevention Collaboration is dedicated to helping the community take action to prevent child sexual abuse. Parent cafés will be held on:

• Thursday, April 7: Head Start, 30 Madison Ave., Springfield, 5:30 to 7 p.m.;

• Wednesday, April 20: Square One, 1095 Main St., Springfield, 5 to 6:30 p.m.; and

• Thursday, April 28, HCS Head Start, 206 Maple St., Holyoke, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls and one in six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18. Sexual abuse does not discriminate; children and adolescents of all races, cultures, and backgrounds are equally susceptible to sexual abuse.

Those attending the events will receive a children’s book, My Body Belongs to Me, then guided through a discussion of parenting choices help prevent child sexual abuse in their families.

The Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime offers the following strategies on how to respond if a child reports he or she has been abused:

• Stay calm.

• Listen to the child’s words and expressed emotions. Believe the child and stress that his or her safety is important.

• Don’t press the child for more information.

• Reassure the child that he or she has done nothing wrong. Abuse is never a child’s fault.

• Remember that the people who harm children are often people whom children love.

• Avoid negative comments. Encourage the child, saying that he or she did the right thing by telling and that it was brave to tell.

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