“The Innocence of a Child workshop addresses one of the greatest issues facing our community,” said Darrylyn Swift, president of the Contra Costa Alumnae Chapter. “It was important for us to bring the youth, teens, caregivers and community leaders together to open up lines of communication and talk about the prevalence of sexual exploitation in our community, and identify risk factors and warning signs. The workshop also provided the youth and teens an opportunity to be self-reflective and focus not only on victimization and their vulnerability, but on their strength.
“It is also important for us as a chapter to send a clear message that our children are our most precious resources and we are committed to protecting and guiding them.”
According to marriage and family therapist Nadirah Stills, Social Action chair of the Contra Costa Alumnae Chapter and Far West Regional chair of Physical and Mental Health, “A lot of times we think (the sexual predator) looks a certain way, but not always do they look like the person we see on TV. It might be a neighbor, coach, or anyone.”
Stills urged the girls to have open disclosure about this sensitive matter and be able to talk about it. Learn creative ways to be safe as you move through your teen life. Be able to identify warning signs, and have tools to (deal with) the warning signs and be able to identify predators.
“It was really informative,” said 14-year-old Klarc Abrams of the workshop. “It was real, like documentaries – real stories … Don’t walk alone at night – every time these girls got picked up, it was at night. Think before you act; don’t be so trusting of everybody.”
“It’s exciting to see something like this in our community,” said workshop attendee Larry Oshodi, principal of Heritage High School. “It’s time that we empower our young women, especially women of color.”