Event to Give Abuse-Prevention Tips

By Michael Fisher
The Press-Enterprise [San Bernardino CA]
October 22, 2004

The Diocese of San Bernardino will host its first-ever Family Safety Fair on Sunday afternoon to educate children and parents on how to recognize and prevent child molestation and abuse.

The free event, scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. at the diocese's Pastoral Center at 1201 E. Highland Ave. in San Bernardino, will include age-appropriate games to teach children to recognize abuse and protect themselves.

The event is part of the diocese's ongoing response to the clergy sex-abuse crisis gripping the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, according to Deacon Michael Jelley, who oversees the diocese's programs to protect children and aid sexual-abuse victims.

"What we have discovered as time has gone on is how really prevalent in society sexual abuse of children is," Jelley said, explaining that some statistics suggest that one-third of women and one-quarter of men are victims of sexual abuse by the time they leave high school.

The fair will be run by The KidWise Institute of Oakland, a parent and professional training group that has worked with other California dioceses.

Based on their ages, children will be separated into groups for different games intended to teach them about protecting themselves from abuse, Jelley said. For example, one game will teach 3- to 5-year-olds about who is entitled to talk to them about their bodies. Another for older kids will underscore the importance of sharing scary secrets, he said.

Another exercise will teach teens to recognize sexually predatory behavior.

"Once a child is able to recognize a behavior, then you want them to be able to make a decision on how to say no and keep themselves safe," Jelley said.

In recent months, the diocese has also conducted abuse-prevention classes for parents at eight parishes.

The 2- -hour classes were presented in English and Spanish, he said.

Mary Grant, regional director with the Los Angeles chapter of the national Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, remained skeptical.

"Our fear is that it's a public-relations ploy," Grant said.

Twenty-five Inland priests have been accused of molesting 38 children in Riverside and San Bernardino counties between 1950 and 2002, according to data released last February in a national study of sexual abuse commissioned by the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.


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