by Meredith Flory

 

For over three years I’ve written this column to focus on a different educational issue each month. Some topics are lighthearted and fun such as activities to keep your child engaged with reading on a plane and some topics more serious such as discussing political and social activism with your children. 

Even with such varied topics, each connects in some way to building literacy, because learning to read and write affects not only our ability to learn a wide range of skills but also to communicate our own stories more effectively. 

In April, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) leads Sexual Assault Awareness Month along with other organizations to campaign and “educate and engage the public in this widespread issue.” 

Recently, I spoke with Eric Groh, LPC who has “specialized in PTSD and counseling survivors of sexual exploitation” for over 20 years.  As a former Georgia Composite Licensing Board president and complaints investigator, he now runs Ethics Demystified LLC, with a mission to provide “professional counselor training in ethical practice with the aim of public protection.”

Groh shared there is unfortunately, “a high rate of minor sex trafficking in Columbia and Richmond counties.”  For parents wanting more information that can help them to recognize the “signs and indicators of sexual exploitation,” Groh recommends RAINN as a trustworthy organization providing educational tools, assistance and referral to counselors in the area.

Groh also shared that, “increasing numbers of counselors statewide are delivering online counseling and psychotherapy for sexual abuse.” Groh explained that young people in situations where they do not have family support or those who are English language learners, as well as those in areas where there is a shortage of flyers and posters in public places that share hotline numbers and safe havens, are more at risk of not being able to find help. 

By educating our children on safety, resources and becoming involved with one of the organizations listed, we can help to make our communities safer and erase stigma and barriers to seeking help. 

Groh noted that, “many believe the greatest risk for exploitation is random kidnapping…but in fact, perpetrators of sexual abuse are more frequently family members or individuals close to family who have access to children. He added that, “children who are neglected and seeking love, affection and attention are much easier prey.”

With that thought in mind, I would note that the goal of this article is to hopefully show that strides are being made in our communities to prevent these crimes and help victims, and that as parents, being educated and lovingly engaging with our children can empower us in this endeavor.

Perhaps most important to what Groh shared with me is the importance of being able to tell our stories, “The chance to share is critical as it provides an opportunity to rid oneself of shame and self blame, one of the largest obstacles to getting help.” Let your children know they can ask questions and share their stories.

This article appears in the April 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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