If you’ve ever felt like child abuse, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault were such HUGE and overwhelming problems that one person could never have an impact, now is the time to get over that misconception. For more than two decades, April has been designated child abuse prevention month and it is now also designated as and sexual assault awareness month. Tens of thousands of people will focus on these issues in April; if you choose to add your voice it will be amplified by a chorus from like-minded people. April is is the ideal time to organize colleagues and friends to plan community events like workshops to support parents, advocacy events to help change laws, conferences to help professionals do their jobs, and special displays of parenting books in stores and libraries. All of these can help promote strong and safe families, communities and institutions. Here’s some help to get started:
Step 1: Find partners
Look for like-minded people to form a work group; check out your religious institution or your local schools’ PTA/PTO. Try the local department of public health, the rape crisis center, or child protection agency and ask for the outreach coordinator. These public agencies often have advisory boards comprised of citizens, a great resource to tap.
Step 2: Find a champion
Find an ‘honorary chair’ — a high profile person to lend their name and credibility to your cause and event. This is generally easy since elected officials of all stripes want to be associated with protecting children and keeping families and communities strong. If you get lucky, an elected official might offer time from a staff member to support the event.
Step 3: Make the plan
With your partners and champion identified, decide together what you want to offer your community. My personal preference is for events for parents. My experience proves that parents are concerned about promoting the sexual health and safety of their kids, ensuring the sexual climate of their school and other institutions is healthy and that the community has resources. With parents on the planning committee, you’re sure to be able to tap into the concerns of your local parents and plan an event that meets their needs.
Check with your library to see if the youth or reference librarian can curate a special collection of resources for parents; they can highlight information about your event next to the special display. The librarian may even be able to find a local author who could offer a reading and a book-signing!
Consider working with an agency to honor their volunteers; I’ve seen wonderful events where people come out to see volunteers honored and also get to hear a program where they learn how to promote sexual health and safety in their family and community.
Step 4: Find the resources
Volunteer support might can often be found in the local high school as many now have a ‘service learning’ requirement and young people are looking for meaningful projects! Similarly, Greek organizations at a local college and youth groups at religious institutions can be a great source of help to raise funds and awareness supporting your cause.
An event does not have to be very expensive; a speaker and refreshments may cost a few thousand dollars but sponsors are generally easy to find. Like elected officials, businesses want to be associated with a popular issue like safe kids. Many communities have public grant money that they can spend on community involvement. These public agencies can help:
- Find your state’s Rape Prevention and Education coordinator here:
- Find your states Children’s Trust Fund here
- Find your states Child Protection Services agency here:
Non-profit organizations, like Prevent Child Abuse America support special events in April and you can find your local chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America here:
Step 5: Need individual help?
Take advantage of the national voices being raised in April and promote safe and healthy children, families and institutions in your community!