Program To Address Serious Issue Of Child Sex Abuse
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Verna Wyatt is on a mission to prevent the sexual abuse of children in Tennessee, and you have the power to help her.

Wyatt is the executive director of “You Have the Power,” a non-profit organization founded by Tennessee First Lady Andrea Conte.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, You Have the Power will be offering a free community program for the Cannon County area, collaborating with the Cannon County Children’s Advocacy Center. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m., and will be held at the Senior Citizens Center, 609 Lehman Street, Woodbury.

“The problem of child sexual abuse is very prevalent,” Wyatt said. “This issue is an epidemic. The statistics of reported cases indicate that one in 4 girls and one in seven boys will become a victim of sexual abuse by age 18.

“These are only reported cases,” Wyatt added. “I can’t tell you how many survivors I know that never disclosed abuse until they were adults. This is an epidemic that we, as a society needs to be informed about so we can actively work to stop victimization, to prevent victimization in the first place, and absolutely the importance of getting counseling support for the victims.”

Those who attend the Nov. 12 will learn how to identify child sexual abuse, what to do if someone suspects a child is being sexually abused, and the local resources for helping a victim of this crime.

“We have a keen interest in stopping child victimization, and have created many educational resources to prevent and reduce this crime from happening,” Wyatt said. “We present community programs on this subject to empower people with information they can use to stop victimization, to prevent victimization, and to assist the victims in their recovery.”

The program at the Senior Citizens Center will begin with a documentary video You Have the Power produced on the subject of child sexual abuse. It features adult survivors of child sexual abuse talking about the victimization and the aftermath, and also about healing. The video also features interviews with incarcerated child sex offenders who talk about their strategies and excuses for making victims.

“This is a very powerful documentary, and sets the stage for our program and begins the ‘‘understanding’ needed to make sense of this crime,” Wyatt said.

Following the video, there will be a panel presentation of the facts and information. On the panel will be a survivor of child sexual abuse who will share her story of survival, a representative of the Department of Children’s Services who works in the Cannon County region, and Amanda Burks, who is the Cannon County Coordinator for the Children’s Advocacy Center.

“This is a very insightful and interesting program, and could be information that could pointedly save a child from devastation, or at least to rescue them from it,” Wyatt said.

The Child Advocacy Center is a non-profit agency that serves children who have been victims of child abuse and child sexual abuse along with their non-offending family members. The following services are provided free of charge:

• Forensic interviews of child abuse victims in a child friendly location

• Crisis intervention counseling

• Case management and referrals to community resources

• Safety planning

• Crisis telephone line

• Follow up services

• Court advocacy services

• Coordination of services to victims

The Child Advocacy Center also has a free program for drug endangered children. A drug endangered child is defined as any child who has parents who have used drugs, including alcohol. The program offers free in-home services for as long as the child needs them.

You Have the Power began in 1993 as a volunteer, grass-roots effort composed of concerned citizens, crime survivors, and representatives from the Office of the District Attorney, law enforcement and community agencies.
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