On May 31, United Way of Dane County held its first Child Protection Summit to ensure organizations and community members have the resources to fight child sexual abuse and to provide a safe space for youth.
In partnership with organizations throughout the community, including Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, the summit provided opportunities for discussion and education to ensure Dane County is safe for youth.
Following cases of child sexual abuse both nationwide and in Wisconsin, Leslie Ann Howard, President and CEO of United Way of Dane County, said the summit was key in educating community members on the issues surrounding child sexual abuse and in establishing improved best practices for ending abuse.
“We’re here today because there are many people who don’t realize there are best practices,” Howard said. “We’re going to change all that starting today. We’re going to talk and come together to help protect children in Dane County.”
Research shows one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Dr. Anna Salter, a consultant in the State of Wisconsin Department of Corrections, added in her keynote speech that youth sex offenders are often charming and likeable, which can help shield them from accusations of abuse.
Salter said child sexual offenders may be responsible in other ways and lead a double life in separating their abuse from other aspects of their lives. This means organizations should focus in part on detection by utilizing background screens for volunteers and staff members and on deflection to ensure offenders do not have the opportunity to abuse youth.
“The key is sharing information,” Dane County District Attorney Ismael R. Ozanne said. “Together we can successfully limit cases of child sexual abuse but in our development of best practices we have to be conscious of how we empower children, because that’s the biggest thing: we need to hear our children.”
The summit also provided a checklist of best practices for organizations identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent child sexual abuse, such as screening employees and volunteers, monitoring behavior and training about child sexual abuse prevention.
City of Madison Chief of Police Noble Wray said the best practices promoted at the summit will help organizations establish and enforce policies that will keep youth safe. He also encouraged organization leaders to use the “Safe Places, Safe Spaces,” window cling to publicly show support to keeping youth safe.
“United Way and others are actively seeking support to provide assistance and training to all youth serving agencies throughout Dane County,” Wray said. “Our hope is every youth serving organization will agree to make their agency a safe place and a safe space for all youth to continue to be a resource in fighting sexual abuse.”
United Way remains committed to ensuring the safety of all of our youth. For more information on preventing child sexual abuse log on to www.unitedwaydanecounty.org/cps.
Our Community’s Agenda for Change
- Students succeed academically and graduate from high school, regardless of race.
- Children are cared for and have fun as they become prepared for school.
- There is a decrease in family homelessness.
- There is a reduction in violence toward individuals and families.
- People’s health issues are identified and treated early.
- Seniors and people with disabilities are able to stay in their homes.
United Way engages our community mobilizes volunteers and strengthens local nonprofits to achieve measurable results and change lives.
United Way of Dane County
United Way of Dane County is addressing the underlying causes of community issues through our community’s Agenda for Change—seven goals focused on three priority areas of Education, Safety and Health that our community identified as most critical to changing lives and strengthening Dane County. Through strategic partnerships and collaborative work, we are achieving measurable results toward making our community better educated, safer, and healthier. United Way provides organizations and individuals the opportunity to give, advocate, and volunteer to change the human condition in Dane County.