NOVA ED Penelope Ettinger speaks at the press conference Wednesday.

The Bucks County Government is working with the Network of Victim Assistance to completely end child sexual abuse and trafficking. With funding secured from the Jerry Sandusky case, Bucks is one of five counties to take part in the pilot program.

The three year Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative is a comprehensive approach to informing the county’s adult population about the epidemic of child abuse. NOVA representatives and several Bucks officials joined together last week to make the announcement.

“Child sexual abuse is an epidemic,” said NOVA executive director Penelope Ettinger. “It happens in every zip code, it happens whether you are rich or poor, it happens whether you are well-educated or don’t have an education. Protecting children is the most important thing that we can do. It’s going to take all of us … our entire community.”

Director of Housing and Human Services Jonathan Rubin speaks about Stewards of Children.
Director of Housing and Human Services Jonathan Rubin speaks about Stewards of Children.

The Center for Disease Control estimates one in ten children will be abused sexually by the age of 18. The major driver behind informing parents of this and other information is “Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children.”

Bucks County Director of Housing and Human Services Jonathan Rubin helped secure $750,000 in funding for “Stewards of Children.” Over three years, trained facilitators with the program will teach thousands of adults throughout the county about how to recognize signs of sexual abuse and how to fight it.

These include:

  • ways of minimizing opportunities for potential predators to have access to children;
  • strategies for talking to children about safe and unsafe touches and how to tell adults about potential abuse;
  • recognizing symptoms of child sexual abuse, such as emotional and behavioral changes;
  • and knowing how to report suspected abuse.

Facilitators will hold the first “Stewards of Children” training session on January 25th, with other times throughout February. For more information and registration, visit the NOVA website here.

Anyone with questions can also contact NOVA’s Grace Wheeler at grace@novabucks.org or call 215-343-6543, ext. 166. People who suspect child sexual abuse should call Bucks County Children and Youth at 215-348-6900.