Active and Aware: Recognizing the signs 

It just takes a little light to shine in the darkness. 

Ann Thompson, Lincoln Parish Coordinator with the Youth Empowerment Program, shared ways teachers can recognize, prevent and report child abuse to Louisiana Tech’s College of Education’s Teacher Residency Program. 

Dr. Amy Vessel, an associate professor and director of clinical and professional experiences, said the workshops Thompson delivered were very informative. 

“Our goal as educators is always to provide a safe learning environment,” Vessel said. “We hope these workshops are extremely beneficial to our future teachers.” 

Thompson said her goal is to teach all individuals, not just teachers, how to recognize signs of abuse. 

“Potential signs of abuse can be physical, emotional and behavioral,” Thompson said. “However, some children show no signs of being abused. We don’t have to leap to suspicion of abuse with one sign, but it means we should reach out to a child and play the role of a safe and caring adult.” 

Thompson facilitates the Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training. This two-hour training teaches adults practical ways to prevent child sexual abuse or intervene if abuse is suspected, discovered or disclosed. Stewards of Children upholds that sexual abuse prevention and response is an adult’s job. The foundation of the training is five steps to protecting children. These five steps form a framework for preventing child sexual abuse. 

“The first step is to learn the facts,” Thompson said. “Understanding the facts about child sexual abuse enables adults to break through denial and fear, so that they can better protect the children in their life. Child sexual abuse is any sexual act between and adult and a minor, or between two minors, when one exerts power of the other. Forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act. It also includes non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposer to pornography, voyeurism and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or internet.” 

One in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday, Thompson said. Ninety-three percent of those victimized children are abused by someone they know and trust. 

“If a child discloses sexual abuse, that child has taken a huge risk in telling you,” Thompson said. “Listen calmly. Do not overreact. Let the child know you believe them, and what has happened to them is not their fault. Praise them for being brave and courageous. 

“Report the sexual abuse to Child Protective Services or any law enforcement agency. Less than 8% of child sexual abuse reports are false. If an adult discovers child sexual abuse, meaning the adult had witnessed a sexually abusive act by an adult or youth with a child, or you know by another way that abuse has taken place. Report the discovery immediately.” 

If adults have suspicions of abuse, Thompson said to reach out to that child with sensitivity and patience. Ask what is bothering them. Adults have to consider sexual abuse when they see any signs of distress in a child.  

Adults who suspect abuse can describe the behavior of the child and include an open-ended question about what is bothering them. They might ask, “I have noticed that you seem sad lately, and you are usually so happy. Is something bothering you that you want to talk about?”  

After the abuse has been reported to the authorities, contact your local child advocacy center. Pine Hills Children’s Advocacy Center covers Ruston, and The Center for Children and Families covers Monroe. 

For more information or to schedule a training, contact Thompson at athompson@wellspringalliance.org. You can also call or text her at (318) 548-1353. 


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