Leslie J. Davila

As the director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s child abuse prevention program, I’ve dedicated my career to advocating for victims and working toward a future where no child experiences the trauma of abuse in any of its forms. My journey in this field began with a personal experience that opened my eyes to the prevalence and devastating impact of child abuse.

Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the effects of child sexual abuse within my own family. This early exposure ignited a passion within me to confront this issue head-on. During my college years, I had the opportunity to intern at a local rape crisis center, where I worked with survivors of sexual assault. It was there that I truly understood the importance of victim advocacy and the need for comprehensive prevention efforts.

One of the most pervasive misconceptions about child abuse is the belief that it only occurs within certain demographics or communities. The reality is that child abuse knows no boundaries. It can happen in any neighborhood, regardless of socioeconomic status or cultural background. This misconception underscores the importance of our work in raising awareness and implementing prevention strategies across all sectors of society.

At the core of our local Church’s efforts is the goal of preventing child abuse and promoting early intervention through education and outreach. By empowering individuals with knowledge and resources, we can equip them to recognize the signs of abuse and intervene effectively. It’s crucial for adults to be vigilant and attentive to changes in behavior in children, as well as warning signs in adults who may be perpetrators.

Child abuse is not a private matter. It is a public health crisis with far-reaching consequences. The long-term impacts on the health, development, and wellness of victims are profound. Abuse affects not only their own lives, but also the lives of those around them and the generations that follow. To truly address this issue, we must work collectively to create a culture of support and understanding.

Communities play a vital role in supporting victims and breaking the cycle of abuse. By creating trauma-informed environments, where the stigma of abuse is eradicated, we can ensure that survivors feel safe and supported as they navigate their healing journey. It’s essential for us to listen to survivors, validate their experiences, and provide access to resources and services.

As parents and caregivers, we have a responsibility to promote a safe and nurturing environment for our children. This starts with open and honest communication. We can use everyday opportunities – such as meal times and daily check-ins – to engage in conversations about safety and boundaries. By giving children the language to express themselves and ask for help, we empower them to protect themselves and others.

As adults, we have a responsibility to intervene, act, and report suspected cases of child abuse. We cannot turn a blind eye or assume that someone else will step in. By speaking up and taking action, we can protect vulnerable children and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

As we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, let us recommit ourselves to the fight against child abuse. Together, we can break the silence, raise awareness, and create a future where every child grows up feeling safe and protected

For more information about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Child and Youth Protection’s efforts and resources available please visit www.childyouthprotection.org.


Leslie J. Davila, M.S., is the Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection.