The Darkness to Light (D2L) Initiative, which held a training Wednesday at the Chapel Hill Public Library, is an educational program that informs parents about the warning signs of child sexual abuse — and the chance their child might be harmed by someone they trust.
A documentary video shown as part of the training emphasized abusers can be charismatic and likable, may have jobs working with children and are not always male as stereotypes might suggest.
The training laid out a five-step process parents and caregivers can follow to maximize children’s safety: learn the facts, minimize opportunity, talk about it, recognize the signs and react responsibly.
Meredith Stewart, director of child safety for YMCA of the Triangle, said listening when kids report abuse and making them feel heard and believed is crucial.
“I’ve worked with kids my whole life. Unfortunately, this issue has come up,” she said. “What I would do is, I would look right at them and I would say, ‘You’re doing the right thing, you are so brave, thank you for telling me, I am going to do everything I can to help you and you are not alone.’”
Libby Fosso, who teaches at Chapel Hill’s University Presbyterian Preschool and attended the training, said her daughter has a disability that leaves her unable to speak.
“When she’s not with me, she’s always with someone who I don’t know very well, who’s had a background check, but because of her disability, she’s kind of a walking victim,” Fosso said. “We do the best we can to put our trust in people, which is sometimes very scary.”
Tom Clark, a human resources consultant for the Town of Chapel Hill and the presenter of the Darkness to Light training, said it’s important for organizations to clarify policies and prevent adults and children from ever being alone together in one-on-one situations.