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Commissioners support “Not on Our Watch” initiative

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An estimated one in 10 children in the United States will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday, according to the National Children’s Advocacy Center.
In an effort to both draw attention to the grim statistic and prevent child sexual abuse, Grace Wheeler, prevention project coordinator with Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA), joined the Bucks County Commissioners in a virtual press conference last week to discuss a new initiative that will train adults to detect signs of such abuse.
 
Called, “Not On Our Watch,” the initiative aims to educate 5% of Bucks County residents (about 25,000) on how to recognize symptoms of child sexual abuse and how to report the crime, said Wheeler.
 
About 1,000 Child Sex Abuse (CSA) Stoppers, as they are called, have already been trained through NOVA’s free online webinar, Wheeler said. The Doylestown-based nonprofit advocacy organization hopes many more community members will volunteer to take the professional remote training.
 
With a 50% drop in the number of reported cases of abuse due to the pandemic, which has limited children’s contact with “mandated reporters” trained to spot and report abuse, Wheeler said, there is a “particular relevance” to offering the training now.
Mandated reporters can be officers of the court, educators, nurses, doctors and other health care providers, among others.
 
The program, a joint effort of Penn State University and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, will be offered on a variety of dates and times. To learn more, contact Wheeler at grace@novabucks.org or call 215-343-6543 ext. 6703.
 
Bucks County is one of four in the state offering the training, Wheeler noted.
 
In other matters, Scott Forester, the county’s director of emergency services, discussed the “tornadic event” that tore through the county on Aug.4.
 
“It traveled 20 miles, from the Franklin Mills Mall to Peace Valley Reservoir … it was like two storms,” he said.
 
Upper Bucks received 7½ inches of rain, requiring two dozen water rescues, while the lower end of the county suffered from 90 mph winds,, said Forester. “It required simultaneous operations.”
 
In Doylestown, an EF 2 tornado, with winds up to 115 mph, severely damaged Doylestown Hospital’s day care center, where 135 children were housed. Several homes in the area were destroyed and many others damaged.
 
Forester said, the county is hoping for financial assistance from the state and has applied for grants and low-interest loans.
 
Reporting on the pandemic, Dr. David Damsker, director of the county’s health department, said, the small upsurge in cases following the July 4th holiday, had decreased. The overall hospital rate is down, as well, said Damsker.
 
“We’re doing very well in Bucks County,” he added.
 
Asked about the upcoming flu season, Damsker said, “I think the flu season will be minor,” as the public is already familiar with wearing masks, social distancing, staying home when sick and handwashing.

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