April 4, 2014
By Brittany Carlson, Belvoir Eagle
Fort Belvoir, Va. (April 3, 2014) - Hundreds of Fort Belvoir children ages 1-5 kicked off National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Month of the Military Child Tuesday with Pinwheel Parades outside of the Child Development Centers on North and South post.
The children marched around the CDCs, waving pinwheels and noisemakers, singing songs, and holding banners with messages like "Military Kids: Heroes for the Future."'
The pinwheels were part of the Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign, a national movement led by Prevent Child Abuse America. According to the Prevent Child Abuse Virginia website, "the pinwheel was chosen for its positive association with children and the happy images of childhood. It represents the hope and promise that every child be raised in a healthy, safe, and nurturing environment." For more information, visit www.pcav.org.
After the Pinwheel Parades, children "planted" their pinwheels in the ground outside of the CDCs to create "pinwheel gardens" and promote awareness in the community.
"This is a way that we can get information out," said Donita McDonald, Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program outreach coordinator.
ACS is partnering with Child, Youth and School Services and other organizations on post to provide a month of activities for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
This year's theme is "Children's Safety Comes First -- Be Ready to End Child Abuse."
Within the Army, the prevalence of child abuse cases is very high, said Scottie Hampton, ACS Family Advocacy education specialist.
"It actually increased by 40 percent in the Army over the last couple of years," she said. "By promoting these activities, we're giving information about healthy ways to cope with stressors. We're raising that awareness and hoping that we as a community can respond to and decrease incidents of child abuse to potentially prevent them in the future."
Some of the highlight activities this month include a special training event on child sexual abuse prevention, a "Safe Dates" class for teens, and a visit from Spiderman, who will talk to children about child abuse and bullying prevention.
On April 4, "Darkness to Light" will present a "Stewards of Children" class on preventing childhood sexual abuse from 9 a.m. to noon at ACS for parents, caregivers and professionals. (April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month.)
"Darkness to Light" is a nonprofit organization devoted to ending sexual abuse of children. For more information on the program, visit www.d2l.org.
"The curriculum is about how we work together as a community, both on an individual level and then as a team in a community response to prevent sexual abuse," said Hampton.
"Ninety percent of people who are committing sexual abuse of their children are people we know," she added. "It's not strangers."
The training includes video clips of individuals who have been victims of sexual assault.
"As you go through this interactive process, towards the end they will talk about their healing process," Hampton said. "It can be very powerful."
On April 14, Spiderman will visit children at Markham School Age Center to talk about child abuse prevention and bullying.
From 1-2 p.m., Spider-Man will be available for a "meet and greet" session and photos (for children ages 3-5) and from 2:30-3:30 p.m., he will lead a discussion on child abuse prevention and bullying from 2:30-3:30 p.m. (for ages 6 and older).
On April 30, teens are invited to attend a "Safe Dates" class focused on teen dating assault prevention from 4:30-6 p.m. at the Youth Center.
The class is provided by ACS and Child, Youth and School Services in conjunction with the Fort Belvoir Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Office.
The curriculum is designed to help teens focus on healthy relationships, learn about what constitutes abuse and coercion and discuss what "consent" means, according to Tasha Venters, Fort Belvoir installation sexual assault response coordinator.