By: Andrea Martone
On April 26 in Palmetto, Florida, a sexual monster lured a five-year old girl from a birthday party and took her to his home across the street where he forced her to watch child pornography and sexually battered her. Since his arrest, police investigators believe that 44-year-old Christopher Thompson may have sexually abused multiple other victims.
WTSP Tampa 10 News covered the heinous story on May 10 and interviewed Hilda Arreola – Selah Freedom’s Southeast Prevention Coordinator. Arreola works passionately with her team to educate youth and teens to learn the signs of child abuse and sexual exploitation.
The statistics are staggering in the US: One in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused. Arreola told WTSP news host Liz Crawford “Those traumatic experiences can lead to lifelong agony and sometimes make those children the target of abusers well into adulthood. "It’s teaching these kids to keep secrets and to carry that shame and guilt and that is something that traffickers, abusers, exploiters — they look for because they know that person knows how to keep a secret, knows how to stay quiet when they feel uncomfortable, so they target that individual."
Arreola says Selah’s lesson plans and educational materials are always age appropriate. For instance, with young children, Selah prevention specialists discuss unsafe secrets and the need to tell a safe adult when someone makes you feel "icky" or confused. In older grades, Arreola says they broaden their education to prevent people from becoming not just victims, but buyers and sellers, too.
"We want to make sure we’re preventing the issue from ever happening in the first place," she says.
Selah Freedom has provided lessons in all school districts in the Tampa Bay region including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk. In 2019, Florida became the first state in the country to require sex trafficking education in grades K-12.
Through our Prevention Program, Selah Freedom has trained 27,347 youth and adults to stay safe and take action against sex trafficking. We remain committed to fighting sex trafficking and protecting the next generation.
Please click on this link to explore ways we can serve you and your organization through our K-12th grade curricula as well as trainings for adults.
The statistics are staggering in the US: One in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused