by Dr Michael LeClair and Anndria Rose
Research conducted by the CDC presents that 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser. Furthermore, 20% of children suffer abuse before they reach their eighteenth birthday. The Youth Advocacy Center (YAC) of Lewis County provides a free education program, known as Stewards of Children, to the community to assist in recognizing, responding to, and preventing child sexual abuse. Since its inception in 2015, YAC has also provided support for over 700 victims and their families in and outside of the court.
Through the Darkness to Light organization, the Stewards of Children curriculum was formed. This program has been able to create a fact-based, educational training. Anyone is welcome and encouraged to join and learn. Thus, becoming an advocate for children. This training program has been used by some local school districts, administrators, and educators to aid in learning potential signs of abuse to help in early detection and potential prevention.
Abuse creates many substantial consequences. These can include, but are not limited to, increased substance abuse, decreased academic achievement, eating disorders, and emotional and behavioral distress. The YAC has reported a significant increase in child sexual abuse cases in the past two years during COVID-19. Further studies have been performed by the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Washington, and the findings are noteworthy. It was discovered that 75% of domestic violence programs in Washington state hadhelped 2,306 survivors in 2020. However, 603 requests for help were unfulfilled. This stems from staffing needs, material needs, and, ultimately, funding needs.
Twin Cities Rotary Club has become heavily involved and invested in this important training and assistance. Our club has researched, reviewed, and witnessed the vital need for this program and has donated $10,000 to assist the Youth Advocacy Center (through a district community grant and club funds) in provisioning materials and training to further their efforts. Samantha Mitchell, clinic coordinator and forensic interviewer for the Youth Advocacy Center of Lewis County, stated the following, “once you have 5% of the adult population trained in your community, you see a complete societal shift in how the community responds to child abuse, and you create a safer community because people are seeing things and being able to recognize what they see and do something about it.” This is the mentality adopted by Twin Cities Rotary. Many of our own Rotarians have attended the training. Some of those members have taken part in additional training to become facilitators of the Stewards of Children training in order to provide a wider reach of knowledge to our community. The more Lewis County community members are trained, the more members within our Juries are equipped with the necessary knowledge.
Other community organizations, such as United Way of Lewis County and the Lewis County Commissioners’ office, have joined in the efforts. Together, they have allocated over one hundred thousand dollars to the Youth Advocacy Center.
Children are our future. Rotarians are advocates for the future.
To learn more about this program and/or donate to the knowledge being spread, visit https://caclmt.org/donations/.