Working together, we can protect children from sexual abuse

Darkness to Light has but one singular focus - to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse. Over the past 14 years, our programs have helped raise awareness of its prevalence, elevate visibility of its consequences, and provide education to adults on the steps they can take to recognize it and react responsibly.

An estimated 74 million children in this country (source: Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics) desperately need the support of the community of concerned citizens who can protect them and keep them safe from those who seek to inflict unspeakable harm.

Recently, some have expressed concern over our decision to cancel our annual gala this year. We did not arrive at that lightly, as we know this event has been a long-standing tradition in Charleston, and one that has served a worthy purpose, both in terms of building support and raising resources to help advance our goals.

Our fundraising endeavors are vital to the success of our organization. And every initiative that helps us foster a connection with our community of concerned citizens is important to us.

But it's equally important we balance those initiatives with the responsibility we share to serve as stewards of our organization's higher purpose. We weighed all of the factors carefully, and after thoughtful consideration, we determined that redeploying resources and funds would help us attain our mission objectives in a more sustainable and broad-based manner. We know some in our community were disappointed by the decision - but we hope they recognize that it was made purely in the interests of positioning the organization for future success, so that we may achieve our long-term goal of preventing child sexual abuse, for good.

There can, and should, be differing points of view when it comes to making smart choices regarding the best use of our precious resources. But our goals can only be achieved if we come together, in the midst of disagreement, and stay focused on the children.

The members of our dedicated staff and army of volunteers work tirelessly to keep the protection of children in the public spotlight, and we are thankful for all that they do in the name of Darkness to Light. Our collective mission is more important than any one individual, and we pride ourselves in always putting the organization first, in everything we do, to ensure the needs of those we serve always come first.

Our roots are in Charleston, and we would not be where we are today were it not for the committed efforts of those who have selflessly donated their time and resources to advance the noble cause of sexual abuse prevention. We are, and will always be, eternally grateful for the faith they have bestowed in us.

Since our founding here in 2000, our message of prevention has spread across the globe as organizations and concerned adults take action to protect children. Thanks to the support of this dedicated community, we have now trained more than 44,000 adults throughout South Carolina and expanded our reach to all 50 states and 16 international locations.

The need to prevent child sexual abuse exists both within, and beyond, the boundaries of this wonderful community.

At the current rate, one in ten children will be sexually abused if we don't do something radical as a society to change it. In order for us to stay true to what we stand for, in addition to our local outreach efforts, we must also drive a national and international conversation about these important issues to protect children everywhere, regardless of where they reside.

Our work is just beginning. And with the continued support of those who believe in what we do, we will not stop until children everywhere are no longer at risk of the unthinkable.

Let's stay focused on the path ahead, and come together to help those who desperately need it.

David Repinski, CEO of the U.S. Property & Casualty Division of Crawford & Company, is chairman of the Darkness to Light Board of Directors.