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Speaker urges vigilance to prevent sexual abuse of children
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For more information about upcoming training sessions through Adults Protecting Children, including one on Sept. 17 in Gainesville, visit the website or call 770-789-3879.

When it comes to protecting children from sexual predators, everyone has an important role to play, Steve Collins said.

"You have the power to do something to keep a child safe - we just have to exert that power," said Collins, founder and president of Adults Protecting Children, during a workshop Tuesday.

Through his Flowery Branch based, nonprofit, Collins provides training to help prevent the sexual abuse of children.

During the workshops, participants learn seven steps to help "prevent, recognize and react responsibly to" such abuse.

According to Collins, the first step in protecting children is to "learn the facts and understand the risks." Some of the facts caught participants of the workshop at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center's Lanier Park campus off guard.

Among other things, participants learned that 60 percent of child sexual abuse victims were abused by someone who their family trusts.

The group also learned 30-40 percent of children that are sexually abused are abused by family members and that one in five children are sexually solicited via the Internet.

"How many parents are oblivious to the power of the Internet?" Collins asked.

To effectively protect children from abuse, advocates must be aware of certain issues and vigilant about preventing certain situations.

"If we don't combine awareness with action, we're protecting no one," Collins said.

According to experts, 90 percent of children who are sexually abused, know their abuser.

"It's not healthy to suspect the worst of everyone, but how do we deal with that?" Collins asked the group.

"Around 80 percent of abuse can be stopped if we insisted on no (one-on-one situations between adults and children)."

Because abusers are most likely people that children know, they could be anywhere - from churches, to coaches and even older siblings, Collins said.

Despite familiarity, advocates must not be afraid to question unusual behavior or interactions, he warned.

"If we're going to err, let's err on the side of protecting our children. Those people who sexually abuse children are drawn to settings where they can gain easy access to children," Collins said.

"Having policies in place about interactions between adults and children deters (potential) abusers. It also helps us know what to do if an accusation is ever made."