Most kids know about “stranger danger.” But the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network is trying to get out a new message.

Emily Chitchatted-Laird, the executive director of the WVCAN, says more children will be the victims of someone they know rather than a stranger. That’s why the WVCAN introduced the “One with Courage” campaign on Tuesday at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center in Charleston.

“Most kids are perpetrated against by a family member or someone that the family knows and trusts. It’s almost never a stranger,” according to Chittenden-Laird.

The WVCAN will use TV, billboards and social media to get the word out about the campaign. They’re urging every West Virginian to get involved.

Photo by Jennifer Smith

WV CAN’s Emily Chitchatted-Laird announces campaign.

“We all have kids in our lives whether it be in our church or in school activities or just in our neighborhoods,” said Chittenden-Laird. “It’s important for all of us to take a role in protecting them.”

That means looking for signs of abuse such as bruising, scratches and swelling. But Chittenden-Laird says more often than not, it’s behavioral signs that are more apparent.

“If you have a young child that is regressing to prior behaviors, for example, a child that is potty trained and they start bed wetting again or soiling themselves. That might be an alarming sign,” according to Chittenden-Laird. “As you get older, with juveniles, what we think of as delinquent behavior often times is just a really normal response to a trauma that a child is experiencing.”

If you suspect child abuse, you need to report it to the proper authorities.

WVCAN says if you think it’s not a major problem here in West Virginia, think again. One out of every four girls and one out of every 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18,” says Laird.

She says just by paying attention to behavior and spending time talking to kids, you may be able to pick up on the signs they’re being abused.

To learn more about the program, log on to www.wvcan.org.

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