An estimated 30 percent of child sexual abuse goes unreported. The Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida (CAC) aims to lower that number in our community by expanding its abuse prevention programs and opening conversations to help end the stigma of abuse.
“Child abuse thrives when nobody is talking about it,” said Quinton Clawson, Community Awareness and Outreach Supervisor at the CAC. He added, “As adults, we must be brave and have these uncomfortable conversations. The idea is to have these educational conversations to break the stigma and create awareness. There is life and healing after abuse. We need to keep going forward with programs like these to prevent it from ever happening in the first place. Expanding our programming is an incredible opportunity to broadcast resources for both children and adults.”
The more these uncomfortable conversations occur, the less abuse is allowed to happen, and the CAC continuously works to raise awareness and increase abuse prevention initiatives. The Community Awareness and Outreach Program that the CAC has implemented teaches children and adults how to shine a light on uncomfortable topics around abuse and what to do if they suspect a friend or family member is being maltreated.
“There is a lack of education and awareness in Southwest Florida, and the CAC’s prevention programs really aim to change that,” said Julie Boudreaux, CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida. Boudreaux’s primary goal is to end the stigma of sexual abuse in our local community through these programs.
Prevention training at CAC takes a two-pronged approach specializing in the education and prevention of child abuse, including sexual abuse and mandated reporting. The programs are separated by the audience’s age, Stewards of Children™ being for adults, and Kayla’s Club for children and youth.
Stewards of Children™ is an evidenced-based curriculum from Darkness to Light®, a worldwide leader in child sex abuse education, research, and advocacy. Attendees learn to recognize signs of abuse, how to respond and how to report it. The sessions are led by a CAC staff member and are held monthly at the Collaboratory in Downtown Fort Myers and are open to the public. The next session is being held on August 25th, at 9 a.m. The CAC also provides on-site training for large groups working with children, such as schools, after-school programs, and churches, offering more in-depth information and skill development in reporting abuse, signs of human trafficking, and other topics.
Kayla’s Club provides children and youth a platform to openly discuss what abuse looks like, how to prevent it, and how to report it to a trusted adult. The program is named after a survivor and advocate against sexual abuse, Kayla Peck. Kayla’s Club utilizes a combination of survivor experiences and a curriculum designed by the Monique Burr Foundation that is focused on delivering age-appropriate education and guidance, depending on the demographic of the audience.
Since 1981, the CAC’s mission has been to provide a coordinated response to child abuse and neglect victims to improve the lives of at-risk children and their families through prevention services. The CAC provides abuse determination services, therapeutic counseling, pet therapy, advocacy, and parenting education.
About the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida
Since 1981, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida, Inc. (CAC) has worked to improve the lives of children and their families through a coordinated response to child abuse and neglect, offering them a safe and friendly environment in which to heal. CAC provides abuse determination services, pet therapy, therapeutic counseling, parenting education, and prevention programs in Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Charlotte Counties. All services are provided free of charge. For more information, please call 239-939-2808 or visit cac-swfl.org. CAC is a United Way Partner Agency.