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Erie County launching campaign to combat child sexual abuse

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Erie County will become the sixth county in New York State to roll out an education and training campaign that will work with members of the community to develop strategies to prevent child sexual abuse.

The Enough Abuse Campaign was introduced in New York in 2012 by the statewide organization Prevent Child Abuse New York. In Erie County, partners including the Erie County District Attorney's Office, Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center and Crisis Services will provide free training to institutions and individuals to recognize the warning signs and develop strategies to prevent child sexual abuse.

"The Enough Abuse Campaign aims to provide the resources and knowledge, directly to parents and families, to ensure a child's safety by utilizing a public health approach to prevention," said Crisis Services chief executive officer Jessica Pirro.

District Attorney John Flynn offered some alarming statistics to open the news conference in his downtown Buffalo office. Erie County, he said, has the second highest number of cases of child abuse in New York State. An estimated 9,000 cases were reported last year but Flynn says law enforcers believe only about one tenth of the incidents happening are actually being reported.

Flynn and child advocates say it's time to stop being silent about crimes committed against children.

"The overwhelming majority of child victims are abused by people they know, trust and respect," Flynn said.

"That's why this program is so important, because what we're doing is educating our citizens, we're educating our teachers, our religious leaders, our Boy Scout leaders, our Boys Club leaders, our athletic coaches, we're educating the entire community who have a responsibility and role in molding and teaching our children how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse."

The Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center has been designated the host agency for the campaign. Its director, Rebecca Stevens, said training will be made available and crafted to fit the needs of the people or organizations.

"We can be flexible with the amount of time that you have and the number of people," she said. "For example, we could speak to 250 people in an auditorium or a small book club on a Wednesday night in their home. Some of the modules can be an hour or they could be three hours, depending again on what is easy, what is accessible and what people have the time and availability for."

Currently, the modules are designed for people ages 12 and older. Stevens says additional modules are in development to work directly with younger children.

At the same time, Flynn pointed out that while there's a need to become more aware of child sexual abuse, parents need to remember that a wide majority of the people who will interact with their kids pose no threat.

"I think it's important that we don't go too far and create a society where we are hovering over our children, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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