SPRINGFIELD — When it comes to stopping sexual abuse and trafficking of children and teens, It’s crucial that adults receive education about spotting the signs.
That’s what one organization that works with foster children provided at a training session in Springfield Wednesday night.
The main message was clear — We as adults are responsible for preventing the sexual abuse of children.
“Court Appointed Special Advocates”, also known as “CASA”, drove that point home. They shared the signs of abuse, and what to do when you see abuse and trafficking.
When children are preyed on by adults, it often starts with adults’ who befriend the guardians of their victims. Director Kelly Schultz of Missouri’s Child Advocacy Center, travels around the state to teach classes about situational awareness.
She says 90% of adults are abused by somebody they know, and somebody they trust.
“The easiest way to prevent child sexual abuse, is to reduce one-on-one isolated situations. Perpetrators spend more time grooming adults than they do the children. Every child, every situation, reduce that one-on-one isolated situation,” Schultz says.
Those relationships also play a big part in exposing children to trafficking.
“Somebody has a relationship to that child, access to that child, and then they are exploiting that child,” says Schultz.
People who receive “Darkness to Light” training also learn to recognize who is most at risk for trafficking, or being forced to do things in exchange for sexual acts.
“Really being aware of the children that are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, including children in foster care, homeless youth, youth that are on the run or couch-surfing. LGBTQA youth are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked,” Schultz says.
As for what to do if you may suspect someone is being trafficked, you can call the National Trafficking Hotline, which is unique so victims can remember it too.
“888-3737-888. We advertise the number that way because then survivors only have to remember that ‘3737’,” says Schultz.
If a survivor just picks up the phone and dials “3737”, they will be put through to a 24-hour helpline, which is advertised in a number of places like bathrooms, bars, and gas stations.
CASA believes training five percent of the population can cause a major culture change.
If you would like to learn more about training, Schultz says to call her directly at 573-522-8686.