According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1-in-4 girls and 1-in-6 boys will be sexually abused before age 18. This shocking statistic is one reason why the Riverbrook Regional YMCA, Wilton Public Schools and Trackside Teen Center have teamed up to bring a community-wide effort to protect local children and help prevent sexual abuse of children.

They are bringing the nationally recognized Stewards of Children training to Wilton. The program, created by the nonprofit organization, Darkness to Light, teaches adults how to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The leaders held a kick-off event in early October and are offering the training and is offered to day care providers, coaches, youth organizers, teachers, parents and concerned citizens.

Bob McDowell, CEO of the Riverbrook Regional YMCA, first learned about the program during training [through YMCA-USA]. Right away, he thought it would be something worthwhile to bring to Wilton. “I said, ‘I need to talk to Kevin Smith about this.’”

McDowell acknowledges that the topic isn’t an easy one to discuss, but it’s necessary to do so in order to protect children, especially for organizations where children are at the center of what they do⎯like schools, the YMCA and others like youth sports groups and other youth service agencies, preschools, churches and other faith-based organizations, Parks & Recreation, and more.

He stresses that statistics show the problem can happen anywhere and that it’s clear why implementing such a program is so important.

“You’re talking about the innocence of children. When you’re in the youth-serving business, like the YMCA, or the school, or Trackside or a preschool or anyplace where you want to be able to protect the innocence, to allow children to thrive in an environment where they feel safe, where we would be able to recognize anything. Statistics are alarming when they say 1 in 10 children.”

And in a town like Wilton, that runs on the participation of volunteers, McDowell says it’s even more important for people to get trained.

“Volunteers that are working with kids that may not see an indicator or if they do, they don’t know what to do. This training will allow us to become aware of situations, and help us know how to act upon it. It will also help us prevent, to keep kids safe. People get so busy in life, it’s convenient to trust our child to an organization, or someone else, a babysitter. ”

With the three entities taking the lead, the idea is to invite other agencies together to take part.

“We have a goal of training more than 700 people, which is about 5-percent of the adult population of Wilton. On top of that we’ll train school employees and the Y employees. That 5 percent is the ‘tipping point’ from the Gladwell Theory of, is it going to stick, change attitudes and behaviors?

The training will be offered free through the end of the year. Groups and individuals can take part, with larger groups undergoing facilitated sessions and individuals able to complete online training. McDowell is so enthused about the program that he says he is the point person, and anyone interested in getting trained should contact him directly. “I think it’s great for any adult to be trained in this.”

McDowell adds that Kevin Smith has been trained as a facilitator so that he will spearhead the training in the school district himself.

Some of the other alarming statistics:

  • 20-percent of sexually abused children are under the age of eight.
  • More than 90-percent of children who’ve been sexually abused know their abusers.
  • 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18
  • 400,000 children each year are abused sexually

There will be another introductory event on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. for any groups or individuals interested in learning more about taking the training. To learn more, contact McDowell at the Wilton Y, 203.762.8384.