BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
WEST BOUNTIFUL — Child abuse is costly and is pervasive throughout society, including Davis County.
“We like to think child abuse doesn’t happen in Davis County, but it does,” Suzy Lee, a prevention specialist with Prevent Child Abuse Utah told members of the Bountiful Breakfast Exchange Club last week.
Lee provided club members with statistics that show the direct or indirect cost to Utah as a result of child abuse as $2.84 million each day.
Those statistics also show that in Utah, a child is abused or neglected every 38 minutes.
Lee, a Farmington resident, gave club members an overview of services provided by Prevent Child Abuse Utah, which includes educating parents, teachers and students on child abuse issues and equipping them to report it.
The organization offers school-based programs that target specific age groups of children.
Children in preschool through second grade are told to listen to their “oh-oh feelings,” and to pay attention if someone inappropriately touches them, or they feel they’re not safe, Lee said.
“We tell them they have the right to tell anyone ‘no’ if it’s hurting and then to go to adults they can trust. Children are asked to pick three adults they could trust to tell if they’re being abused.
“If one of the parents is the abuser, we ask them to pick someone else. It may be a teacher or a neighbor,” Lee said. “The kids are pretty good about knowing who they can trust.”
Programs for older kids, grades 3 through 12, go into greater detail, looking at physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect.
With kids in junior and senior high school, Prevent Child Abuse Utah helps them see what a healthy relationship looks like and what signs to look for in an unhealthy relationship.
“One of the signs is an unequal balance of power in the relationship,” Lee said, adding that it’s not always the boy in a dating relationship who holds the power.
Teachers are taught how to handle situations of abuse they may become aware of with their students. It’s the responsibility of the teacher to report abuse when they see it, Lee said.
Once they report it, it’s up to teachers to reassure the student that they’re not bad for speaking up about the abuse they’ve suffered.
“When a student reports abuse to a teacher, we ask that the teacher not express shock or panic because the child will see that as if they did something wrong,” Lee said.
Teachers are asked not to make promises they can’t keep to a student and if a child asks what happens next to say, “I don’t know,” because every case is different,” Lee said.
A major focus of the organization is prevention of bullying. The program helps kids understand why other kids bully and empower them to stand up to bullies.