Eight, Arizona PBS events to raise awareness of child abuse, prevention

Eight, Arizona PBS is partnering with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, TRUSTAZ.org (Training and Resources United to Stop Trafficking) and The Body Safety Box to offer a variety of community events and workshops throughout the month of April, during national Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The month will launch March 21 with a keynote event on how to stem the rise of human trafficking, and will culminate with the broadcast of "Keeping Children Safe: Ask An Expert" at 8 p.m., April 21, on Eight HD, which will include a panel of experts available to advise viewers and the community at large via phone bank and social media on issues of preventing child abuse and human trafficking.

Eight is co-hosting the March 21 symposium, “Hyper-sexualization of Children in the Media – Why We Should Care and What We Can Do About It,” which aims to shed light on many of the causes behind the rise in human trafficking and what can be done to reverse this alarming trend. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, 340 N. 3rd St. Featured speakers are Cordelia Anderson, a nationally recognized expert who has worked in the areas of preventing sexual abuse, exploitation and violence since 1976, and Savannah Sanders of TRUSTAZ.org, a survivor of human trafficking.

The event is open to the public, but space is limited. Registration is available at www.azpbs.org/strongkids. Attendees also receive a complimentary copy of Anderson’s book, "The Impact of Pornography on Children, Youth and Culture." This event is made possible by a grant from The Steele Foundation, Inc. and support from Phoenix Children’s Hospital, In-N-Out Burger, Sheraton Downtown Phoenix and Eight, Arizona PBS.

“These events and the 'Keeping Children Safe: Ask An Expert' call-in broadcast are a continuation of the work we began in 2013 with the Creating Safe Environments Summit that Eight hosted last April. We are pleased to be able to bring together leaders on these important issues, locally and nationally, to benefit children and families in our community,” says Kimberly Flack, Eight, Arizona PBS associate general manager of educational outreach.

Anderson, who in addition to giving the keynote address at the March 21 event, will also be featured on the April 21 "Ask An Expert" panel, has conducted over 2,200 presentations nationally and internationally on topics including: prevention of child sexual abuse/exploitation; impact of pornography; normalization of sexual harm; promotion of sexual health; bullying/cyber-bullying; restorative justice; compassion fatigue; and bringing activism into our work. She’s been the lead expert consultant on two statewide mass media efforts: Project Abuse (which won an Emmy in 1984) and You’re the One Who Can Make the Peace. She’s on the Board of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and is the founder and immediate past president of the National Coalition for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation.

“Yesterday’s porn is today’s mainstream media, and today’s porn is far more violent and hard-core than ever before," Anderson says. "The ease of access, reach and content adds up to the greatest social experiment ever happening to our children and youth. Pornography has become the main sex education for our young people, and adults have a responsibility to counter the messages.”

A survivor of human trafficking, Sanders faced and overcame devastating hardships and abuses in her youth, such as childhood rape, child sex slavery, homelessness as a teen and severe drug addiction. She is now recovered and living a full life as a victim’s advocate, wife and mother of four healthy children. Sanders is pursuing a master’s degree in social work with a minor in women and gender studies. As part of her work with TRUSTAZ.org, Sanders shares her story to educate, mentor and empower people who have been traumatized from the dehumanizing acts of sexual abuse.

“My childhood sexual abuse and trauma left me most vulnerable to being trafficked and exploited,” Sanders says. “A lack of education in my family and community resulted in me experiencing compounded trauma throughout my adolescence. Abusers and traffickers know how to spot a vulnerable child, and we as a community need to be as educated in recognizing the signs and symptoms of abuse, in order to protect and empower our youth.”

According to a report issued in September by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, the vast majority of victims and perpetrators in Arizona are American, and experts estimate as many as 27 million victims worldwide.

"The facts are startling and the stark reality is that child sexual abuse and exploitation can happen to anyone,” says event chair and children's advocate Marcia Stanton, senior injury prevention specialist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Stanton cites such statistics as:

• experts estimate that one in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday

• one in five children are sexually solicited while on the Internet

• youth are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults

• about 35 percent of victims are 11 years old or younger

• more than 90 percent of children who are commercially sexually exploited have a history of child sexual abuse

• about 75 percent of child pornography victims are living at home when they are photographed and parents are often responsible

 “The lasting effects are devastating," Stanton says. "Research shows that individuals who are sexually violated as children are far more likely to experience psychological problems that often last into adulthood, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, substance abuse, relationship problems and suicide.

"These victims don't just suffer emotionally; they often suffer physically with devastating health problems, including obesity, heart disease and stroke. Everyone in our community needs to learn about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse."

The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. Led by co-principal investigators Robert F. Anda and Vincent J. Felitti, the ACE Study is perhaps the largest scientific research study of its kind, analyzing the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma (ACEs), and health and behavioral outcomes later in life.

Eight is also coordinating the following schedule of ACE-related workshops through April:

Survival Kit for Parents of Teens, with ShaRon Rea
6:30-8:30 p.m., March 17
Sonoran Trails Middle School, 5555 East Pinnacle Vista Drive Phoenix, AZ 85085

Survival Kit for Parents of Teens – 4-week series class, with ShaRon Rea
6:30-8:30 p.m., March 25, April 1, 8 and 5
Taylor Jr. High Media Center, 705 S. 32nd St., Mesa 85204