With sponsorship from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families and the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, Cobb’s SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center is hosting Darkness to Light Child Sexual Abuse Prevention training sessions Tuesday afternoon.
The sessions will be held at the Cobb County Safety Village, 1220 Al Bishop Drive in Marietta, between 2 and 5 p.m.
SafePath Executive Director Jinger Robins said the group has been hosting the seminars since 2008.
“We can train people, as adults, who should be the responsible ones to protect children, to recognize the signs, respond to the appropriate authorities and prevent the abuse from ever happening,” she said.
Robins said SafePath became certified facilitators of the training four years ago but were fortunate enough to gain sponsorship from the state this year after Georgia’s first lady Sandra Deal took the training herself.
“She was so impressed with it and so empowered by it, that she decided to have the Governor’s Office take on an initiative to do this across the whole state of Georgia,” Robins said. “They are doing these trainings now, reaching out to communities and sponsoring the trainings.”
Tuesday’s session, which is funded by the state, is open to the first 50 people who sign up.
Robins said participants will watch a video with multiple testimonies from adults who are survivors of child abuse and learn about the healing they’ve gone through and also learn more about the recently passed House Bill 1176, which requires anyone volunteering or working with children to report suspected child abuse within 24 hours of learning of an incident.
“There is an interactive workbook … participants will be challenged with how a topic makes them feel, signs and symptoms of what they can note and be trained to recognize abuse,” she said. “There will be active discussions about how they can help prevent child abuse.”
Ann Stuart, a west Cobb resident who is now looking at becoming an authorized facilitator of the training, is the mother of children who were abused.
“I have two children who are survivors of sexual abuse, at the hands of their Taekwondo instructor 15 years ago,” she said. “If you had told me that we were going to be fine and that through SafePath and counseling, that we’d be fine, I would have never believed you, but we are.
“I have a big stake in helping children and trying to prevent this from happening. Ideally, it’s good to prevent it, but if you can’t, there are so many good organizations out there to help you.”
Stuart also works at Primrose Kennesaw North, is a Sunday school teacher and member of the Junior League for Cobb/Marietta, which volunteers with the Center for Family Resources and YMCA working with children often.
“The Darkness to Light training really puts a face to what you’re seeing or what you may see in the community, and it reminds you that it can happen to any child, at any time, in any socio-economic situation,” she said. “I have my radar up and know what to look for.”
Another participant in the previous training sessions is the county’s director of libraries, Helen Poyer.
“With the change in the law in the reporting requirements and the fact that SafePath just does an excellent job of giving out the information and they are providing the training, we thought it would be great to go through the training, so that our employees are more comfortable, know what they can and can’t do, identify suspected child abuse and know how to respond and correctly,” Poyer said. “The training has helped immensely.”
Fifty of her employees participated in the last session, and 10 will attend Tuesday, which would allow roughly 25 percent of her entire staff, about 200 employees, to be privy to the training.
“We are just trying to make sure all of our front-line employees have the training … we really appreciate SafePath doing this,” she said.
Vic Reynolds, Cobb’s new district attorney, said he hasn’t completed the training but applauded what SafePath was doing in teaching adults about preventing child abuse.
“Any program that the goal is to end child abuse is a good program,” he said. “The thing about this program that I believe is so appealing is that it basically empowers adults. We can never have too many people who know how to recognize child abuse.”
Reynolds also said that while they haven’t seen an increase in child abuse cases in Cobb and Georgia, they still see too many.
“We are fortunate here that we have a dedicated unit, both in the police department and in this office, unlike a lot of counties, who are specifically investigating and prosecuting crimes against our children,” he said.
To sign up for the class, visit SafePath online at www.safepath.org and RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (770) 801-3465.