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Workshop targets child abuse
Andy Chambers is on a mission to prevent child sexual abuse.

He wants to train 3,000 Glynn County adults in recognizing and reporting child sexual abuse because he thinks if 5 percent of the county understands the signs of sexual abuse and how to report it, local children will be better off.

"The belief is that when 5 percent of culture changes behavior, you see a cultural shift," said Chambers, pastor at Frederica Presbyterian Church on St. Simons Island.

That's why he's conducting child sexual abuse prevention training along with the Golden Isles Children's Center.

The training will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 900 Gloucester St., Brunswick.

Though Chambers is a minister, the curriculum will not revolve around religious teachings. He follows the Stewards of Children curriculum.

Anyone is welcome to join the training.

One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach the age of 18, Chambers said, citing national statistics.

"It's happening in Glynn County, and we want to empower adults by educating them of the problem and the correct way to respond to it," Chambers said.

A state law went into effect July 1 that expands who is required to report suspicions of child abuse. Now, volunteers in schools, churches and day care centers are legally required to report suspected abuse.

But under-reporting is still a problem nationwide, he said.

"I think a lot of people just don't know what to do," Chambers said. "This is not something that people just love to talk about, either. People think, 'That would never happen to me or to my child.'"

Dr. Lee Heery, a pediatrician, agrees that a lack of reporting is a problem.

As medical director of the Golden Isles Children's Center, Heery is working with Chambers to educate the public on the signs of abuse.

"(Under-reporting) is a problem everywhere," she said. "Is it more of a problem here? I don't know."

Part of Heery's job is conducting medical forensic exams on abused children. She knows what impacts sexual abuse can have on children.

But the signs aren't always easy to spot, she said.

Younger children may act out, have behavioral problems, be scared at night or wet the bed. Older children may turn to substance abuse, skip school or engage in sexual activity.

Prevention is the key to keeping children safe.

"One of the most important parts is just preventing child abuse by keeping children safe and making children aware of what's OK and not OK," Heery said.

Those who suspect child abuse can report it to law enforcement or to the Department of Family and Children's Services.

IF YOU GO

Limited seats are available for the child sexual abuse prevention training session. To reserve a spot, contact Andy Chambers at 634-2240.



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