Local News

Awareness program targets child sex abuse

Posted July 20, 2010 5:46 p.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2010 10:07 a.m. EDT

— The physical and sexual abuse that led to 4-year-old Teghan Alyssa Skiba's death late Monday isn't unusual, according to experts, who say educational programs can prevent abuse.

Teghan had cuts, lacerations, bite marks, head trauma and sexual assault injuries. Her mother's boyfriend has been charged with murder and felony child abuse.

"Obviously, the death of this young girl is more unusual. Unfortunately, I don't believe that the abuse that happened to her is as unusual," said Nancy Kent, a child mental health specialist at The Durham Center.

Kent said she hears stories about sexual abuse every day in her work, and she cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that one-fourth of girls in the U.S. and one-sixth of boys are sexually abused.

"It's up to the adults to protect the kids," she said.

Kent said she decided to focus on prevention, and she partnered with a national program called "Darkness to Light," which trains adults to look for situations in which a potential abuser could strike.

"It is not generally a stranger. It's not the person that no one knows. It really is people in our inner circle, and it's unfortunate, but it's true," she said.

The program teaches people to ask about things like policies against leaving an adult alone with a child and how background checks are done. The idea is to educate parents and other adults through schools, churches, day cares and sports programs.

Tasha Venters, a rape prevention educator at the Durham Crisis Response Center, has been through the training.

"I think a lot of times, when we think about child sexual abuse, we get this fear that we can't talk about it, that we can't address it. It sort of becomes taboo," Venters said, adding that she hopes greater community awareness will send a message to abusers.

"(I hope) that the perpetrators of child sexual abuse become so afraid that people are watching their every step that it doesn't happen," she said.

Individuals or organizations that want more information about the program through The Durham Center can call Kent at 919-560-7127.