By Jade Ortego
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - About one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by the age of 18. In more than 90 percent of sexual abuse cases, the child and the child's family know and trust the abuser. And in Bell and Coryell counties, the direct and immediate costs of childhood sexual abuse are more than $3 million annually.
Those statistics were a few of many shared at Bell County's first Prevent Now meeting Thursday, an informational event aimed at training adults to help prevent childhood sexual abuse and how to correctly respond when children report that something bad has happened to them.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Central Texas put on the event, which is part of a national program, Darkness to Light; it seeks to protect children from sexual abuse. The nonprofit organization has seven steps to "preventing, recognizing and reacting responsibly to child sexual abuse."
CACCT plans on training 350 people in the area this year, with the eventual goal of training 5 percent of the adult population, or 13,437 people.
Five categories of adults who interact with children will be targeted for training, including parents and those who work or volunteer at schools, faith centers, youth-serving organizations and youth sports organizations. The training includes a 70-minute video on how sexual abuse impacts children well into adulthood.
Courtney Wright, a forensic interviewer at CACCT, learned how to lead the training, and has since presented the program to about 100 adults, including a social work class at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton and a day care conference in Killeen.
It will cost $50,000 to buy materials and pay a staff member to do the training full time.
CACCT hopes to get a coalition organized in which volunteers do the training. Local schools have been contacted, but they tend to want to wait until the beginning of the school year to begin this type of program, said Carla Meyer-McMillen, a special investigator with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"The goal is to have someone at each of these (Prevent Now) meetings say, 'I'd like to host another one,' and more and more people will see it," Wright said.
Michelle Farrell, the executive director of CACCT, said that this is the first step, and she hopes to proceed quickly.
"I think the general public will be greatly impacted by this. And be shocked," Farrell said.
Contact Jade Ortego at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcourts.