Steamboat couple, local churches sponsoring child sexual abuse prevention workshop
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A national leader in child sexual abuse prevention will give a workshop for parents at Steamboat Christian Center on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Feather Berkower, a licensed clinical social worker, will present her Parenting Safe Children workshop, which aims to empower parents to keep their children safe from abuse. An expert on child sexual assault prevention with more than 30 years of experience, Berkower has trained more than 100,000 people through her presentations.
Steamboat Springs couple Jeff and Nicole Walsh, as well as the Holy Name Catholic Church and Christian Center, are sponsoring the event, encouraging parents to participate regardless of their religious views.
The workshop will run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The online registration cost is $40, but Nicole Walsh has offered free admittance to people who cannot afford it. Register for the event at pscworkshopsteamboatnov1619.eventbrite.com.
Berkower will cover topics such as factors that make children and families vulnerable to sexual abuse, how to teach body safety to youth and how to talk about a child’s body safety with caregivers, coaches, teachers and other adults in their children’s lives.
This comes weeks after Colorado investigators released a 263-page report chronicling the abuse of 166 children at the hands of 43 Roman Catholic priests across the state dating back to 1950. None of the victims who came forward were from Steamboat. Only one priest identified in the report, Father Robert White, worked at the local parish for one year in 1990.
Father Ernest Bayer, who has been a priest at Holy Name Catholic Church since 2005, has overseen several changes at his parish to prevent child sexual abuse. Church staff and volunteers who work with children must undergo special training on identifying and reporting suspicious behavior. Most of the rooms in the church now have surveillance cameras, including the chapel, confessional, narthex, church hall and classrooms.
But child abuse is a problem outside of the church, too.
Every nine minutes, a child falls victim to sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nations’ largest anti-sexual violence organization.
What: Parenting Healthy Children workshop on preventing child sexual abuse
When: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16
Where: Steamboat Christian Center, 821 Dougherty Road
Registration: $40 register at pscworkshopsteamboatnov1619.eventbrite.com
Bayer said he is helping to sponsor Saturday’s workshop as a way to “reach beyond the boundaries of our parish” and educate adults about how to reduce risks and report abuse.
“We are trying to keep our whole community safe, not just our church,” he said.
Jeff Walsh, a criminal defense attorney and father of three young children, participated in Berkower’s Parenting Safe Children workshop in Denver seven years ago.
“It’s very eye-opening,” he said of the workshop. “You see these statistics that are shocking when you learn how prevalent childhood sex abuse actually is.”
He said Berkower teaches parents how to talk about recognizing inappropriate behavior or touching “in a way that won’t scare the crap out of them.” The workshop has enabled him to talk frankly with his children about their bodies and to establish body safety rules.
While Jeff Walsh is not a member of a church, he and his wife arranged for Berkower to present in Steamboat as a way to spread her message to fellow parents.
“You are remiss if you’re not talking to your kids about this because there are sharks in the water,” Walsh said.
Berkower, who has been offering the workshop since 2006, said it is common for parents to feel uncomfortable talking about sexual assault with their children. Unfortunately, denial or neglect of the issue is exactly what many perpetrators rely on.
“Sex offenders count on our discomfort,” she said. “Children count on us to push through that discomfort.”
In recent years, as sexual assault has risen to the top through efforts like the #MeToo movement, Berkower has seen a greater willingness to talk and learn about the issue.
“More parents understand they need to know this even if they are scared to know it,” she said.
To inquire about free admittance to the workshop, email Nicole Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Berkower and her work, visit parentingsafechildren.com.
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