- The main room of The Cooperage was packed with stories of strife and perseverance Thursday night at the annual Take Back the Night event.

Sponsored by the Victims Intervention Program (VIP), the event highlights the problem of domestic violence and sexual abuse taking place nationwide and in the county.

The event had the "largest turnout in the last five-10 years," VIP director Michele Minor-Wolf said of this years' rally.

A main draw for the event was the keynote speaker, author of Inoculating Your Children Against Sexual Abuse: What Every Parent Should Know!. Norman Friedman came armed with fliers highlighting the main focus of his book, especially how to teach children the concept of what he has designated their No Touch Zone.

The No Touch Zone, Friedman said, is an important tool a child has in order to arm themselves against sexual abuse.

"As parents or guardians of children it is our job, and nobody else's, to teach children how to prevent their own sexual abuse as they grow up." Teaching a child about their No Touch Zone should be as common as "teaching a child to look both ways when they cross the street."

The establishment of this zone came after an experience Friedman had talking with a little boy who was the victim of sexual abuse. The child was describing the circumstances of his abuse to Friedman with his parents present. The boy said a teacher's aide began rubbing his upper thigh during a film. Friedman said the mother, upon hearing this, became outraged and it was a "bad touch" and he should have not let him touch him there.

The child's response was, "How could it be a bad touch if it felt good?"

Friedman said at that moment, he realized how parents and guardians teach children what is, and what is not, acceptable behavior was failing.

The No Touch Zone

Friedman says children should start learning the names of their body parts beginning at 18 months old. "You can make a game out of it," he said. "Make it fun for them."

Continue to review the names of the body parts, making sure to include the child's genitals. "Use names that are comfortable for you," he said. This type of review should continue from the age of 18 months to five years old.

At the age of five, Friedman says parents should begin teaching the concept of the No Touch Zone. The zone is defined as being "between the chest and the knees, all the way around." After learning this zone, parents should establish a list of adults who are allowed to view, or touch, this zone. This list includes parents and other adults the parents feel should be allowed contact with the child in that manner.

In the event someone not on the list attempts to touch the child in their zone, the child is instructed to say, "You are not allowed to touch me there." Also, he says the child is not allowed to be naked in front of someone not on the list.

Friedman says in the event a sexual predator tries to make your child touch them, the child should say, "I am not allowed to touch you there."

No secrets

Another important concepts that works synergistically with the No Touch Zone is the concept of no secrets.

"Tell your child that the household is a no-secret household," he said. "Child molesters use the concept of secrets" to keep from getting caught. If a molester asks the child to keep a secret, and the child says no, the molester will be deterred.

"They rarely stand up to a child who just says 'no'" because "they don't want to get caught."

Protecting further abuse

Minor-Wolf says a take home message from the event is two-fold. The first message is that "one person can make a difference," in the life of a victim. Friedman said that he has "tremendous respect" for the survivors that attended to speak and for those who are their support system. "Your lives are all precious," he said.

Minor-Wolf said the second important message of the event is to stress that if anyone has been the victim of abuse, be that domestic violence or sexual abuse, VIP is always available for support. The free, confidential hotline is 1-570-253-4401 or 1-800-698-4VIP.

She also extended an excited and energized thank you to the community for their support of the event.

Facts about child sexual abuse

Sexual abusers come from all racial, ethnic and class backgrounds.

More than 95 percent of child abusers are known and trusted by the family.

Thirty to 60 percent of molested children age 12 or younger are molested by those under 18 years old.