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Victor Vieth, founder and senior director of Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, speaks to area church leaders about how children or families may be impacted by child abuse.

TUPELO – Victor Vieth is, unfortunately, no stranger to the countless stories of child abuse in both the United States and the rest of the world.

Vieth, a former prosecutor, worked tirelessly to put these criminals behind bars. However, he was searching for something more – he wanted prevention.

Vieth founded the Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center to help others catch signs of abuse before they make it to the court room. He now serves as the center’s senior director, and he continues to spread his message.

Vieth teamed up with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi this week to provide knowledge on this topic to the Tupelo area.

Karla Tye, CACM’s executive director, said the Gunderson NCPTC has offered training in various places throughout the country, but this was the first time it was brought to this area.

The training took place on Tuesday and will continue today in the BancorpSouth Arena. The training included topics such as how child abuse affects faith, the impact of trauma on children and responding to allegations of child abuse.

The event focuses on abuse within churches and aims to provide the information necessary for religious leaders to handle abuse allegations, while also aiding in spiritual healing.

“We hope that our churches around the state will have tools and resources they can use to make their churches a safer place for children and families,” Tye said.

Tye also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lays out numerous tools and policies to help prevent child abuse in the churches.

These policies include always having two adults present when children are involved and limiting events at the home of the adult supervising.

Vieth said protection policies can also include proper screening of those working with children, monitoring of leadership, and being sure adults are careful in their interactions with children.

Vieth said he was called to the issue of child abuse after representing a case where a young girl was sexually abused by her father. The girl asked, “Am I still a virgin in God’s eyes?” Vieth said he recognized many children who are abused have spiritual questions that need to be answered to help them heal.

The Gunderson NCPTC works to equip adults with the tools necessary to prevent the sexual assault of children. However, they also provide training for the cases that are not prevented and work to help the children heal both physically and spiritually.

The CACM works toward the same goals and is an umbrella organization that includes 11 child advocacy centers. The “Chaplains for Children” event will continue from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday at Table 100 in Flowood. It will conclude at the same times on July 13 and 14 at the Courtyard Marriott Beachfront in Gulfport.

To register for either event visit http://childadvocacyms.org/events.

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