By Tim Kalinowski on October 13, 2021.
The Chinook Sexual Assault Centre is hoping to raise awareness about the prevalence of child abuse, and specifically child sexual abuse, in Alberta throughout the month of October.
“We notice the rate for child abuse in the province is quite high just like it is in most provinces,” says Chinook Sexual Assault Centre CEO Kristine Cassie. “And certainly in this last year, either because of growing trust of our agency, or people are just coming forward with their children, so under the age of 17 we have actually seen 83 children this last year.”
Dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse always requires special care and attention, says Cassie, and it is even more important when it comes to children.
“We know for children they often become victims within a very unhealthy family system where there is sexual perpetrator behaviour present,” Cassie says. “And so the need for us to look for what those warning signs may be, to be attentive to what the kids’ needs are, and to be able to put children’s lives first, is really of paramount importance.
“It’s about knowing how to receive a disclosure without looking shocked or horrified, or anything else, but going from the position of always believing when you are hearing something,” she adds. “And looking for those services or helpful people in the community who can help with the process. It’s really important we don’t create secondary trauma for kids.”
Cassie hopes people in Lethbridge will wear blue this month and post photos to #GoBlueAB to draw awareness to the fact October is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and to think about how to help those children who may be vulnerable in the community.
“We can talk a lot about domestic violence, but sexual violence is often imbedded within domestic violence, and it is probably one of the last things victims will talk about having happened,” she says.
The Chinook Sexual Assault Centre is also in the process of raising funds to build a local Child Advocacy Centre. CACs are used across Alberta to create awareness, and to help victims navigate the legal system and act as a contact point between all those agencies which must come together to stop abuse, arrest and prosecute offenders, and to provide long term mental health and social supports for children who have suffered from sexual abuse.
For more information, and to learn how to donate, visit http://www.csacleth.ca.
The lights at City Hall will also be turned blue on Oct. 24 in support of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
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