Child sexual abuse is devastating physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And it’s a topic many would rather not discuss. But once Steve Collins’ eyes became opened to the scope and breadth of the problem — one in 10 children is sexually abused before age 18—he vowed to fight for victims of sexual abuse full time.
In 2009, Collins left his job as the director of spiritual life for MTW and created his own nonprofit, Adults Protecting Children. “I realized that no agency in my area of north Georgia had the resources or time to focus on prevention, only on the aftermath of sexual abuse,” said Collins. “And [local officials] were saying, ‘Please, we need prevention.’”
Applying “The Tipping Point”
Collins now works alongside the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy and provides training on child sexual abuse in a 13-county area of northeast Georgia, with a goal of training 5 percent of adults in each county.
It’s part of a strategy to bring cultural change around the issue of child sexual abuse, using principles from the Malcolm Gladwell bestseller “The Tipping Point.” “We want to reach a critical mass of people to change cultural norms and behavior surrounding this issue,” said Collins. “We want to move from sexual abuse being shrouded in fear and denial, which keeps kids vulnerable, to move toward openness and clarity.”
And the strategy seems to be working. Through trainings at local day care centers, churches, and schools, many adults are learning how to respond. County officials are seeing an uptick in sexual abuse reports as the trainings continue. And even the local district attorney is glad for an increasingly educated jury pool, says Collins. “It helps with convictions.”
In April, Collins received an award during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week for his work in Hall County, Georgia.
Calling the Church to Action
Collins also works with churches to provide sexual abuse prevention training. “The church sees this only as a sin issue, and not as a crime issue,” he said. “It’s frequently handled internally and doesn’t get reported.”
In 2014, he helped craft Overture 6 to the General Assembly, calling on the PCA to address the issue of child sexual abuse and assault. Churches can start by creating child protection policies, understanding mandated reporting requirements, and providing training to children’s ministry workers.
“The church should be leading the charge in this area,” said Collins. “We have a biblical mandate to protect children so that they can understand the Gospel without the trauma of child sexual abuse interrupting their growth.”
For more information, visit safekidsatchurch.com.