New initiative aims to drive down child abuse in the Northland

A new effort between two groups hoping to stamp out child sexual abuse was announced Friday.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 3:00 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (CBS 3 Duluth) - A new effort between two groups hoping to stamp out child sexual abuse was announced Friday.

The announcement from Twin Ports-based First Witness Child Advocacy Center and the Child Abuse Protection Coalition comes on the heels of the beginning of “I Stand With Kids” Month, which spreads awareness about the dangers of child sexual abuse.

The initiative includes the donation of 85 books to the Duluth Public Library, the Little Red Book Shelf and the YMCA.

The books talk about body autonomy and boundaries in a way children can understand.

Among those at a news conference Friday included Carmella Hatch, an Early Literacy Librarian at the Duluth Public Library.

“I think part of our role is looking out for those kids,” she said, “the more that we know them, the more conversations we have.”

According to Darkness to Light, an organization committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse, 1 in 10 kids will experience abuse before their 18th birthday.

90% of those kids know their abuser. The books with titles “My Body Belongs to Me” and “My Voice if my Superpower” hope to bring those numbers down.

“Having a book that to kind of walk you through that conversation and to do it in a pacing and language that children are going to understand is really helpful,” Hatch said.

The books were purchased using $1,000 that was donated from the Kiwanis Club of Friendly Duluth to the Childhood Abuse Prevention Coalition. The library is a part of the coalition.

“You know, aside from the library having books for families we really are a point of information,” Hatch said.

The library already has the books on their shelves at their three branches.

The First Witness Child Advocacy Center leaders say they saw a 30% jump in child abuse reports during the pandemic. The center investigates allegations of abuse and trains adults to spot it in the community.

“We’re fortunate where we live, we have a committed group of child abuse professionals,” Tracie Clanaugh, the Executive Director of the center, said.

According to the center, they performed 232 forensic interviews in 2021. In 2020 there were 188 interviews, and in 2019 there were 231. The center also advocates for children that may experience abuse.

“What we know is that for decades, child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse went unnoticed and unreported,”

According to the CDC, 91% of children abused, know their abuser. Clanaugh says these crimes often go unreported...making this new initiative so crucial.

“To support a campaign that helps children have voice, have the language, have body empowerment,” she continued, “in order to tell their story.”

The First Witness Advocacy Center was founded in 1991. You can find their website here for more information about their services.