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Religious leaders take child abuse prevention class

Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) invited Bucks County’s faith-based leaders to a special presentation of the “Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children” training program Aug. 7, at Bucks County Community College’s Newtown Campus.

The aim was to educate religious leaders about “Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children,” a county-wide training initiative directed toward adults in the Bucks County community on how to: prevent children from being sexually abused; recognize signs of ongoing sexual abuse; and how to respond appropriately to a child who discloses abuse.

This educational opportunity is available to all Bucks County congregations at no cost. The program is made possible through a grant-funded initiative and NOVA’s goal is to train 25,000 adult community members in Bucks County or 5 percent of the county’s population.

The training is evidence-based and teaches participants the steps to protecting children from child sexual abuse including:

Learning the facts – 1 in 10 children experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday;

How to minimize opportunity through eliminating or reducing isolated one-on-one situations;

How to have age-appropriate conversations with children about personal safety and body boundaries;

How to recognize the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse;
How to react responsibly to disclosures or suspicion of sexual abuse.

“Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children” statistics show that when 5 percent of the adult population in a given community receives the training, the rate of child sexual abuse decreases over time.

Speakers were Matthew Weintraub, Bucks County district attorney; Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Bucks County commissioner; and the Rev. Kris Schondelmeyer, pastor/head of staff, Presbyterian Church of Deep Run and member, Presbyterian Church (USA) National Sexual Misconduct Task Force.

“Child sexual abuse is a silent public health epidemic,” said Penelope Ettinger, executive director, Network of Victim Assistance. “Faith communities, like no other group, bring together communities where public health issues can be framed with a moral compass to discuss uncomfortable topics that impact on our lives and those we want to protect and profoundly love – our children. Faith leaders are essential partners in ensuring that we educate every adult in our community, providing them with the information and tools on preventing child sexual abuse in families and communities.”

For information, visit To schedule a training for your community, congregation or place of business, contact Grace Wheeler at 215-343-6543 or email