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Program News & Highlights

GSPP Stands Against Childhood Sexual Abuse

Dr. Rebecca Jones and Dr. Elaine Thomas, faculty members from the Georgia School of Professional Psychology (GSPP), are offering a series of sexual abuse awareness and prevention programs for students, faculty and staff at GSPP and in the broader psychology community. These workshops are appropriate for any adults (psychology or mental health training is not required) who want to decrease the risk of sexual abuse in their communities. Entitled Stewards of Children and created by the non-profit organization Darkness to Light (D2L; go to D2L.org), the training raises awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse and educates adults about steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. Unlike other prevention programs that teach children how to protect themselves (e.g., "Good touch, Bad touch") by resisting the advances of would-be perpetrators, the Stewards of Children program places the responsibility for protecting children in the hands of adults. Because our students are adult learners, we have an opportunity to train hundreds of participants. The goals of this initiative are to stand against denial of childhood sexual abuse, raise awareness of its prevalence and impact, and teach adults to act in the best interest of children.

The following statistics evidence the scope of the problem nationwide (D2L.org):

  • One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthdays.
  • Twenty percent of sexual abuse victims are under the age of 8.
  • Sixty percent of pregnant teens were sexually abused.
  • There are more than 39 million sexual abuse survivors in America.
  • Over 90% of abusers are people children know, love or trust.

Dr. Thomas and Dr. Jones are both excited to “work on the side of prevention.” Dr. Thomas believes that offering these trainings will “help fulfill our personal and institutional responsibilities to use psychological science and knowledge to address social problems.” Dr. Jones further explains this sense of responsibility, “As faculty members in a graduate school of clinical psychology, we have unique knowledge of the realities of sexual abuse, its prevalence, its impact, and effective methods of prevention and treatment.” The assessment and treatment of abuse survivors is part of the training in GSPP’s programs in clinical psychology, and Dr. Jones and Dr. Thomas currently teach doctoral-level electives on trauma assessment and treatment. Argosy University, Atlanta president, Dr. Ronald Swanson, has expressed his support of this program, which allows faculty members to use their expertise to give back to the community through outreach in this area.

As authorized facilitators, Dr. Jones and Dr. Thomas will lead the training sessions, and the Georgia School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University will provide training facilities and will donate the materials. In addition, GSPP will host a “facilitator training” in September, 2012. These training workshops are offered regularly by the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy (GACFCA; georgiacenterforchildadvocacy.org). Facilitator training in September will be led by Dr. Jones and a member of the prevention staff at GACFCA. Also, GSPP will be offering five scholarships for this training to psychologists in the community who work in the public sector for youth-serving organizations. Applications for these scholarships will be reviewed by prevention staff at the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy (GACFCA).

Darkness to Light (D2L) is a non-profit organization housed in Charleston, South Carolina. Through its hub in Georgia, the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy (GACFCA), D2L is committed to training 1 MILLION adults in sexual abuse prevention. GACFCA’s Sexual Abuse Prevention Initiative is focused on generating a cultural shift in Georgia where adults have the courage to address child sexual abuse head on and work as a community to stand against it. The GACFCA envisions a state in which sexual abuse is acknowledged (rather than denied), and adults act together to stop its occurrence. By providing adults sexual abuse prevention skills known to impact the continuing problem of sexual abuse in our Atlanta community, GSPP hopes to become a catalyst towards this goal.

Colleges and Universities are in exceptional positions to advocate in the fight against child sexual abuse. Argosy University and GSPP are particularly placed to provide sexual abuse prevention training. Many of our students are training in fields that require work with children and adolescents (e.g., clinical psychology, counseling and education). With skills learned through the Stewards of Children program at their disposal, students will be equipped with tools to keep children safe from sexual abuse. By offering facilitator training to psychologists in the community, we will increase the scope of our contribution. Each trained facilitator pledges to educate at least 100 individuals in the Stewards of Children model in the year following their initial training.

Rebecca Jones, Ph.D. is a Professor at GSPP, Licensed Psychologist, and Authorized Facilitator for Stewards of Children.

Elaine A. Thomas, Psy.D. is an Associate Professor at GSPP, Licensed Psychologist, and Chair of the Georgia Psychological Association’s Council on Families, Children and Assessment.