Winnipeg police dispatch free online training to help spot child sexual abuse

Winnipeg police dispatch free online training to help spot child sexual abuse

Free training to spot the warning signs of child trauma is being offered to front-line workers, in hopes of preventing sexual abuse. 

The Winnipeg Police Service and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, with $15,000 from the Winnipeg Foundation, teamed up to launch the online training program. It will be free for anyone who gets a criminal record check (often required to work with children) through the police. 

The Centre for Child Protection says everyone working with youth under 18 should be trained to recognize and reduce child abuse and exploitation.

"This is a very important initiative to help keep children safe, and at the same time, arm those important and protective adults who are committed to doing everything necessary to keep our children safe," said Noni Classen, the centre's education director. "Day in and day out, our child protection analysts see firsthand the horrific abuse of children."

Police Insp. Kelly Dennison said that to protect children, caregivers need to be aware of the physical and behavioural signs of abuse. "And over 90 per cent, as we know, of children under the age of 18 who have been abused usually know their abuser," he said, citing national statistics.

Over half — 59 per cent — of all police-reported sexual assault victims were children and youth under 18 across Canada, based on the most recent Statistics Canada data from 2008. Those numbers could be higher, according to child advocates who stress that sexual abuse tends to be underreported.

Sexual abuse involves aspects of both power over children and sexual acts. It includes everything from inappropriate language, to sexual harassment, exhibitionism, fondling, oral sex, and penetration, as well as child exploitation via pornography and prostitution.

Some red flags include sexualized play and interests, self-penetration and inappropriate touching of others, and trauma, infection and pain in sexual areas. However, not all children show warning signs.

In order to build staff members' capacity to safeguard children, the web initiative trains users on abuse, the grooming process, professional boundaries, child disclosure and reporting. The training, which is broken into eight separate modules, is delivered online in less than two hours.

Users receive a certificate after successfully finishing the knowledge validation test, according to the police website. Winnipeg police reported that 11,000 people nationwide have completed the training since it launched last summer.

The police and the centre were unable to provide the overall cost of the program by publication.

The per-person cost to participate is normally $12, but Winnipeg police are offering it free of charge until the end of March 2019 for anyone who has just received a criminal record check. 

Correction : A previous version of this story attributed quotes to police spokesperson Kelly Dehn. In fact, the comments were made by police Insp. Kelly Dennison.(Apr 24, 2018 7:49 PM)