Here are some facts about child sexual abuse. Roughly one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused before they graduate from high school. Girls are victims much more often than boys, and men are most often the perpetrators. Usually the abuser is someone the child knows, but not necessarily a family member.
Here’s another fact about child sexual abuse: almost no one likes to talk about it.
“Any time we talk about child sexual abuse, people become very guarded – it’s such a taboo topic,” says Jorge Guzman, Puente’s Director of Prevention Services.
He and Iris Fernandez, two of Puente’s licensed therapists, are about to start a difficult conversation about child sexual abuse with the entire community.
On March 11, Puente will lead a community-wide child sexual abuse education and intervention workshop. The program’s first workshop on March 4 – the first time it’s been offered, and the only such workshop in the county — was delivered in Spanish.
The workshops are sponsored by Enough Abuse, a national grassroots campaign to end sexual abuse of children by reaching out to entire regions and communities with educational programming.
The workshops are free and Guzman says he’s hoping to draw locals of all ages and backgrounds. He and Fernandez will train participants to recognize when someone is showing warning signs of abuse; who to call if they suspect abuse; and how to open a conversation with someone they suspect may be a victim.
“I believe there are cases where families suspect that something’s happening and they don’t know what to do. This would be an eye-opener for them,” says Fernandez.
Puente was chosen to administer the workshops because of the lasting impact they could have on a small, rural community – and also because of the trainers’ facility in Spanish.
Puente’s counselors do work with victims of child sexual abuse, though most of them are “older people who were sexually abused when they were kids. It took them years to overcome that shame and actually talk about it,” says Fernandez.
One of the most important parts of the workshop – and the biggest challenges – is getting people comfortable talking about sex and sexuality. Many people try to avoid even using the correct terms for genitalia, and would rather use euphemisms. But you can’t end child abuse without talking about sex.
“It’s a healthy thing to do to be open about sexuality in general,” says Guzman. “We want to respect the culture that people grew up in, but we want to offer an alternative way of talking about sexuality as it concerns abuse.”
Join the discussion and attend a free workshop on March 11 in La Honda (English). Both discussions are from 6-7:30pm and will be at the Puente offices in the respective towns. Call 650-879-1691 for details.