CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)-- April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month and local organizations are joining together to help spread the word on how to prevent child sexual abuse.
According to the State Department of Social Services, 17,500 cases of child abuse or neglect were reported last year. But, advocates say it's difficult to know just how widespread the problem is because so many instances are not reported.
"Statistics and numbers that we have will actually tell us that the rates of child abuse are actually declining which is a good thing," said Cindy McElhinney, Director of Programs for Darkness to Light. "But we still have a lot of work to do and one of the ways we can do that is by talking about it."
McElhinney says talking about the difficult subject of abuse helps those suffering from an abusive past come forward.
"We know that the issue, especially the issue of child sexual abuse is shrouded in secrecy. Most of the time the victim feels as if they're at fault for the abuse or they feel shamed, they feel angry and they keep it inside," said McElhinney. "The media reports can really help victims come forward and share their stories and really understand that they're not alone."
Darkness to Light isn't alone in their fight either. They're joining forces with the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center for a training session for adults in the community. The session is free to the public and will be held on Saturday, April 28 from 8:30 a.m until 12:30 p.m. Anyone interested in attending can register on the Dee Norton website.
D2L is also lighting up the night this Friday with a Glow Ride through downtown Charleston. Bicyclists can deck out their rides with glow sticks and meet at the fountain in Marion Square at 9 p.m.
These events are just one of the many ways D2L hopes awareness becomes widespread.
"One of the ways that we can prevent child sexual abuse from happening is by talking to our children. Keeping an open dialogue, making sure they know the proper names for their body parts, making sure that they understand that if anybody's inappropriate with them that they can tell someone and that it's not their fault and to be believed," said McElhinney. "These are really moments that we can use as teaching moments for our children."
McElhinney also hopes organizations that serve our community's youth take a look at their policies and make sure that they are doing everything they can to protect kids. If that protection fails, however, she says there is help out there.
"It is always advisable to seek professional help," said McElhinney. "Because there are professionals out there that can help somebody that's been through this find peace and happiness."
Parents can find information on how to talk to their children about sexual abuse on the Darkness to Light website.