The Commerce Journal

Local News

March 8, 2014

Court reporter taking stand to end child sexual abuse in county

COMMERCE — Cher Perry is leading an initiative to end child sexual abuse in Hunt County.

As a court reporter for Hunt County Court at Law No. 1, Perry sees all juvenile cases in the county.

Nationally, one out of 10 children are sexually abused, with 35 percent of those children being 11-years-old or under.

Perry said that statistic is not uncommon in Hunt County.

“We see a lot of that here,” she said.

After being inundated with case after case of child sexual abuse, Perry said she wanted to take a stand to take preventative measures to protect the children of Hunt County.

“After so many of those I thought ‘what can we do about it?’” she said.

Perry said it was then that she knew she had to take action. After conducting research, Perry discovered the Darkness to Light program, which trains and equips adults to spot and prevent child sexual abuse.

Perry attended one of the organization’s facilitator meetings and became an accredited facilitator through the training.

Perry now trains residents of Hunt County through a two-hour Stewards of Children class.

With almost 1,000 Hunt County adults trained already, Perry said she has seen great results come through the training.  

“Child sexual abuse is a complicated issue,” she said. “But this training is some basic steps we can all take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to abuse.”

Through the training, attendees are taught five steps to combat child sexual abuse, including facts about child sexual abuse, how to minimize opportunities for sexual predators, how to talk about it with your children, recognizing if an offense has occurred and reacting responsibly when a child comes forward.

Perry said since more than 90 percent of child sexual abuse occurs with someone the child knows and trusts. The old adage “Stranger Danger,” although helpful, is not the favored form of teaching.

“This [training] helps in building personal boundaries to give children empowerment to say no to unwanted physical touch,” she said.

Perry said there are multiple actions parents can take in order to minimize opportunities for predators, such as never having a child in a completely one-on-one situation.

“I try to tell people to keep it observable and interruptible,” she said.

One of the most difficult parts of preventing sexual abuse is talking about it the right way with your children.

Perry said there are numerous resources for parents, such as books and other reading materials to help parents open dialogue with their children on the issue and how to protect themselves.

According to Perry, being open, honest, and being available for children to talk to is important in spotting and combating abuse.

“I think it’s why this training is so important,” she said. “It is hard to spot the physical side of abuse.”

Although Perry said the issue is a difficult one to discuss with young children, since more than half of abuse takes place before age 11, it is a vitally important conversation to have.

“The number of victims shoots up at an early age,” she said. “This is just one of these things that no one talks about but is so prevalent. There are books parents can read to their children to help guide the conversation.”

Since Texas is a mandatory reporting state, which carries a class A misdemeanor for someone failing to report abuse, knowing how to report is important in protecting the child and bringing the perpetrator to justice.

Most reported child sexual abuse cases come either from a child speaking to a police officer or coming forward to their teacher.

Perry said these people are the first defense in helping to prevent abuse.

“Anyone that works with kids needs to go through this,” she said, adding they are currently in an initiative to train almost all teachers and counselors at public and private schools in Hunt County. “It is so important that teachers and counselors get trained.”

Perry recently facilitated a meeting in Greenville, which was sponsored by the Kiwanis of Greenville to train more than 50 people in the Darkness to Light program.

Perry said she is fortunate to have had Kiwanis support the event, and to the school districts in Hunt County for helping to train their respective teachers.

“It is really neat having all these passionate people in the community,” she said. “I’m so excited at how this has taken off and so many people in the community care about these children.”

Perry is facilitating another conference on April 22 for Greenville churches. The event will be hosted at Authentic Life Fellowship Church located on 5500 West Frontage Road in Greenville.

For more information on the event, visit www.d2l.org or on Facebook at End Child Sexual Abuse in Hunt County.

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