YMCA of Greater Syracuse News & Headlines

April 29, 2014

Help end Child Sexual Abuse in CNY

Local collaboration, co-led by the Y, challenges all adults in CNY to learn how to prevent child sexual abuse

April 29, 2014

One in 10 children in Central New York will become a victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18.

It’s a shocking statistic that holds true regardless of the child’s race, neighborhood or family income level. Every child is at risk. Most victims never report the abuse. Most abusers go out of their way to appear trustworthy. That means you probably know a child who is being victimized.

Here’s the good news: Child sexual abuse can be stopped before it starts. All it takes is one adult who knows the signs and is willing and able to do the right thing. That’s why local organizations* are working together to challenge Central New York to take a stand against child sexual abuse. They need your help.

Darkness to Light, a national nonprofit, has developed an award-winning, evidence-informed course, Stewards of Children, to educate adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. It emphasizes that preventing child sexual abuse is an adult responsibility, because young children aren’t equipped to fend off sexual advances from a relative or family friend.

The Central New York Darkness to Light Collaboration plans to ignite behavior change by training a critical mass of 18,000 adults – 5 percent of the adult population - in Onondaga County by 2020. To reach that tipping point, the collaboration is asking local companies, agencies and non-profits to dedicate resources to provide Stewards of Children training.

[Take Stewards of Children at the Y]

“If you’re an adult in Central New York, you need to take this course,” said Linda Cleary, Executive Director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center. “This includes you if you’re a parent, or if you work with kids, or if you’re just a responsible person who cares about our community. You have the power to save a child – maybe your own – from the lifetime of pain that child sexual abuse can cause.”

Already, more than 1,100 adults in Central New York have taken the course from trained facilitators employed by members of the collaboration.

“All kids in Central New York deserve to grow up free from child sexual abuse,” said Hal Welsh, Executive Director of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse. “Stewards of Children gives us adults the power to protect them. When that power spreads throughout our community, our kids will be much, much safer.”

Elizabeth Warren, national programs manager for Darkness to Light, said Central New York is among just a few communities nationwide that have taken such a strong stand against child sexual abuse. Other communities that reached their tipping point goals saw the number of child sexual abuse reports go up. That led to more arrests of abusers, which can only make kids safer, she said.

During today’s event, collaboration leaders signed an agreement outlining how they plan to help the effort succeed. They also signed a banner that says, “We dedicate ourselves to preventing child sexual abuse in Central New York.” They’re inviting every company, agency and non-profit to show their commitment to preventing child sexual abuse by adding their signatures and agreeing to support the Stewards of Children training.

Trainings are open to the public and are of specific interest to youth sports organizations, coaches, camp counselors, teachers, schools, faith centers, other service organizations and parents. Continuing education credits for professionals in various fields can be obtained through this training.


Anyone who suspects that a child is being abused should immediately call the Child Abuse Hotline at

Employers, organizations or individuals ready to learn more about the movement to prevent child sexual abuse in Central New York should contact Janice Timmons, Prevention Education and Outreach Specialist at McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, at 315-701-2985 or jtimmons@mcmahonryan.org. More information is also available at www.mcmahonryan.org and www.ycny.org.

What you need to know about child sexual abuse

In the U.S., one in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. That’s about 450,000 children each year. Their median age is 9. Of all victims, 30% are abused by a relative, 63% are abused by someone else they trust. Just 7% are abused by strangers. Of incidents that get reported, just over half are investigated, and less than 30% result in an arrest. Child sexual abuse can leave scars that weaken communities. Victims of child sexual abuse are three times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and twice as likely to drop out of school.

*About the Collaboration

The Central New York Darkness to Light Collaboration is led by the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center and the YMCA of Greater Syracuse. It includes Vera House, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, the Onondaga County Department of Children and Family Services, the City of Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs, and the Syracuse City School District. Each organization has pledged to work together to raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse in Central New York by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. Funding for the collaboration’s outreach efforts comes from its members as well as a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation and a state grant secured through the office of State Sen. John DeFrancisco.

About Darkness to Light

Darkness to Light was founded in 2000 asa nonprofitwith the mission of reducing the incidence of child sexual abuse through public awareness and education. The Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training is the only evidence-based program available nationally that is proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child-protective behaviors. For more, visit www.d2l.org.

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