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Gulf Coast Kids House Offers Course To Recognize And Prevent Abuse

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Gulf Coast Kid’s House will be offering a course on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse on Tuesday. The subject is taught each month by the children's advocacy center.

Child sexual abuse occurs on a worldwide scale, but it’s also a phenomenon in Escambia County. Kids House reports more than 4,600 cases of child abuse in the county last year – 24% of them of a sexual nature. The staff there also served about 2,600 children in 2014.

Paula Doty is Prevention Coordinator at Gulf Coast Kids’ House, and oversees the teaching of the nationally recognized prevention course, “Stewards of Children.”

The course helps participants get the knowledge needed to fight against the pandemic of child sexual abuse. Kids House Executive Director Stacey Kostevicki says “pandemic” is the right word because such abuse in many cases is cyclical.

Part of the instruction will deal with spotting the symptoms of child sexual abuse. But Kostevicki says there’s no set checklist. The reality is, she says, that kids react in very different ways when subjected to abuse, because the predators can use several different mechanisms. Red flags could include changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits and hygiene.  During the 2012 session, the Florida legislature passed a law mandating the report of child abuse to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Many people can report suspected abuse anonymously, exceptions to that anonymity include so-called professionally mandated reporters, social workers, medical and mental health professionals, teachers and other school officials. They must give their name and occupation, or place of business, when calling. 

Participants in “Stewards of Children” are given a certificate upon successfully completing the course. Coordinator Paula Doty says in some cases, it can be a boost professionally.

To sign up for Tuesday’s child sexual abuse course, or one later in the year, call Gulf Coast Kids House at 595-5800 or go online to gulfcoastkidshouse.org.