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Culturally Sensitive Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training

This article highlights Children’s Center’s Prevention Coordinator, Liliana Will, who in addition to facilitating Stewards of Children training for Children’s Center, is also a national bilingual facilitator trainer.

Author, Dr. Skinner, is a child abuse pediatrician who has practiced for more than 30 years, nine of them at the Children’s Center. She is currently a medical consultant for the Child Advocacy Center of Jackson County and now serves on Children’s Center’s Board of Directors.

Originally published in the March 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Child Abuse and Neglect newsletter and republished with permission.

Guest post by: Sue Skinner, MD, Children’s Center Board Member

(Pictured: Liliana Will wearing sunglasses)

Much work is being done in the field of child sexual abuse prevention. A search of Child Welfare Information Gateway provides information on 11 national and 3 state/local programs. One such national program is Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children (SOC), which just celebrated its twentieth year. SOC workshops are conducted by authorized facilitators. There are more than 12,000 of these facilitators working nationwide. These facilitators themselves are trained by Darkness to Light’s certified instructors. There are approximately 160 active instructors nationwide. Whereas SOC workshops are offered by facilitators in both English and Spanish, all facilitator trainings by instructors had been in English. Until now. Last fall, Dr. Liliana Will became the first and only certified instructor nationally who conducts instruction at facilitator trainings in Spanish.

Although facilitators are normally bilingual, their primary language is sometimes Spanish. With the recent certification of Dr. Will, facilitators may also be instructed by Darkness to Light in Spanish to provide SOC workshops in Spanish. This means a new generation of facilitators will receive this important information in an accessible way for them, which likely will lead to better outcomes in the communities they serve.

Prior to doing this work, Dr. Will was a dentist specializing in endodontics in her native country of Colombia. She moved to the United States to pursue a Master of Public Health. Currently, she is the Prevention Coordinator for the Children’s Center.  Dr. Will is passionate about her work with Hispanic families. She encourages providers to acknowledge how patients may be different than themselves, including cultural and linguistic differences.

When teaching child sexual abuse prevention to groups with a different cultural identity than one’s own, she reminds us to take the time to acquire a cultural knowledge base. It is critical to keep an open mind and engage in self-examination of our own beliefs regarding parenting practices and abuse. This constant self-reflection helps us to work with and teach others in a culturally sensitive manner. The lack of understanding that many people possess regarding another culture creates ample ground for misjudging appropriateness or intentions of actions.

Dr. Will suggests we start by understanding the demographics in our region. Knowing our local demographics is a great starting place to begin shaping program services. For example, Liliana teaches that the Hispanic community often views the American child welfare system with mistrust, as an agency that simply takes children away. As such, there is a veil of silence among families to deal with issues on their own so as not to bring shame to their family. Dr. Will reminds us that many people who are Hispanic and Latinx have strong preferences about how they self-identify, so it is important to take note of their preferences in your outreach efforts. A successful partnership in the Latinx and/or Hispanic communities involves development of a relationship, the building of trust, and an understanding of the respect for family. She states that the delivery of prevention information is not a commodity, arbitrarily delivered. It is shared, and that these communities respond better to someone who openly shows interest in and concern for their wellbeing.

Liliana challenges all of us to think of language access as a necessity, not a luxury. It is critical that services delivered to all populations be in the preferred language, as well as preferred mode of delivery of each specific group. Written materials need to be translated, adapted, or provided in alternative formats based on the needs and preferences of the population served.

As the only SOC certified instructor who trains facilitators in Spanish, Dr. Will’s work represents Darkness to Light’s commitment to quality materials for diverse populations. As well, Dr. Will’s work represents her personal commitment to provide the best outreach and training possible, using her knowledge of language and culture to inform others. Serving the entire community is critical to our goal of seeing that all children are seen, heard, healthy and safe. We must challenge ourselves to envision a world where diversity is incorporated into our approach, and where multilingual access is deserved.

– Sue

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