We’ve all seen the stories: a prominent leader in our community is accused of sexually abusing a child. A trusted adult, like a coach or medical professional, is charged with sexually abusing the young athletes they care for — the Larry Nassar case, for example.

Child sexual abuse is a serious health problem and it happens everywhere, even in Douglas County. Luckily it can be stopped, and more than 1,100 people in our community have already taken the pledge to protect kids.

According to the prevention organization Darkness to Light, youth are the victims in nearly 70% of all reported sexual offenses and are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults. One in 10 children will experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. It’s likely that someone you know or care for has experienced child sexual abuse.

People who sexually abuse children can be found in families, schools, churches, recreation centers, youth sports leagues and any other place children gather.

The impact of child sexual abuse can be long-lasting. Research shows that children who are sexually violated are far more likely to experience psychological problems often lasting into adulthood, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and suicide. Victims are three times more likely to have substance abuse issues, two times more likely to drop out of school and are at greater risk for physical illnesses, such as cancer and diabetes.

These facts are staggering. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to prevent this from happening again in Douglas County.

The Ford Family Foundation’s Protect Our Children program administers a nationally acclaimed training curriculum, Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children. The training is designed to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

The training offers practical, actionable tips that all adults can use to protect kids. It will help you understand ways you can recognize the signs and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. And, it will help you learn how to eliminate opportunities for child sexual abuse to occur, which is one of the most effective ways to prevent child sexual abuse.

Youth athletic coaches regularly interact with kids and teens. Coaches can become excellent mentors and teachers who help guide students on productive paths forward. Sometimes, they can become one of the most trusted adults in a child’s life, particularly if the child is having trouble at home.

Youth coaches also have an enormous responsibility to keep kids safe. That’s why all coaches should be trained to detect and prevent child sexual abuse. Coaches can make sure that there is more than one adult in every practice or sporting event; this strategy reduces opportunities for an abuser.

In Oregon, coaches, assistant coaches and athletic trainers are required to report child sexual abuse. So not only is the training practical, but it may help you save a child.

Adults who have taken the training report feeling empowered and eager to share their knowledge with others. And some have felt motivated to report suspected child sexual abuse in their communities. If you suspect that a child is being sexually abused, you should report it.

More than 17,000 people in Oregon and nearly 1,100 people in Douglas County have taken the pledge to protect kids. You can take this training for free at the YMCA of Douglas County. For those outside of the area, find a training near you at championforkids.us.

In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, I am asking you to help me put an end to child sexual abuse.

We owe it to the children of Douglas County. Let’s be a champion for them.

Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer has been a pediatrician in Roseburg since 1989 and currently practices at Umpqua Community Health Center, serves as the Douglas County Health Officer.

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