Are more children being sexually abused in the U.S.?

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The statistics are startling; 20% of all victims of sexual abuse are under the age of 8.

Thursday night, western Massachusetts parents were in Holyoke to learn ways to fight back against child sexual abuse. Residents underwent training to prevent sexual abuse at the Greater Holyoke YMCA.

“I really learned a lot from this, what to do and the personal stories. And it wasn’t just a sad thing, it was telling us what to do with this information,” said JoElla Tarbutton-Springfield, of Holyoke.

39 million people have been sexually abused in America at some point in their lifetime. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused in the U.S. before their 18th birthday.  “Darkness to Light,” a national non-profit group, says one of the most important things people should know is sexual abuse doesn’t actually have to involve sexual contact.

“It could be an adult exposing themselves to a child. it could be pornography, so showing pictures or movies,” said Darkness to Light Trainer Jennifer Gilburg.

Experts say one of the leading contributors to child sexual abuse is the internet, and it’s something parents need to monitor.
One in five children are sexually solicited while online.

“They are usually on the internet by themselves and they think it’s cool to be on the internet and to talk to these strangers,” said Barbara Baran, of the Greater Holyoke YMCA.

Darkness to Light has already trained guidance counselors in schools across the city of Holyoke. Their goal now is to train 1,500 adults in the community.  Tonight’s training session was their first major seminar.

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