Program helping prevent juvenile sexual assaults

ORANGE COUNTY Officials say children are victims in 70 percent of all reported sexual assault cases, with 20 percent of them under the age of 8.

That is why the Chapel Hill-Carrborro YMCA says it is making it a priority to train adults in the community, so that they will know how to best prevent abuse.

"The statistics alone are startling, one in four girls, one and six boys will be sexual abused before they're 18-years-old and 90 percent of those are victimized by people they know," YMCA Branch Director Kim Grooms said. "So it's that we teach our adults. It's an adult responsibility to protect children."

Grooms' goal is to train 7,300 adults in Orange and Chatham counties using the Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children Program in order to learn how to minimize the risk of sexual abuse by reducing one child/one adults situations.

Organizers say they are learning how to talk openly with children and act on their suspicions.

"I have to know everything I can and be ready at the drop of a hat to offer support," Mental Health Specialist Ennis Baker said.

Baker says she has worked with young victims of sexual abuse and knows firsthand the emotional damage it can cause.

"It affects every relationship they get in," she said. "It affects the choices they make. Who they love and how safe they keep themselves in the future."

In most cases, officials say they lose the ability to know what is right and wrong to do with their bodies.

The effects of abuse also increase the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and teen pregnancy.

"Adults need to protect kids," Baker said. "Kids need to be kids and that's why this is important to us."

There have been eight sessions so far and 150 people have been trained to prevent sexual abuse.

Organizers say they hope to train all of their staff and volunteers over the next few years as well as pastors, social workers and teachers.

To learn more about the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA's efforts visit

For more info about the Stewards of Children Program, click here.

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