RECOMMENDATION 84

Part: 
Three
Chapter: 
3

States should support age-appropriate education and prevention programs for parents, teachers and children within public and private school systems to protect children from victimization by child pornographers and child sexual abusers.

Discussion

The educational programs must inform children while at the same time preserving a child's innocence and basic trust. The program should avoid instilling any unhealthy fear or mistrust in children. It may focus on the difference between positive healthy affection and touching or contact which is harmful to the child. Training for parents and school personnel should center on how to identify cases and how to report the information to the proper agencies.[689]

Notes

  1. California has developed the educational program, Child Abuse: Recognize and Eliminate (CARE). A description of the program follows for purposes of illustration.

    CARE PROGRAM

    STUDENT WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION

    Over eighty percent of child molestations are perpetuated by adults known to the child. The majority of incidents of sexual abuse take place in the home of the abuser or the child. Boys are equally as vulnerable as girls. Child molesters cannot be identified easily; they come from all races, religions, professions, and socio-economic classes. Children can be taught to protect themselves from unwanted, uncomfortable and potentially abusive situations.

    C.A.R.E. (Child Abuse: Recognize and Eliminate) is the Los Angeles Unified School District's extensive school-based educational program on child abuse prevention. The student component of CARE is an exemplary model of instruction for children in pre-kindergarten through grade six. Based on the concepts of self-esteem and self-protection, this instruction is conducted in small groups at the school by S.C.A.N. (School Child Abuse and Neglect) Team members. A SCAN Team is a group of onsite school personnel who have received intensive training in child abuse prevention and intervention. Student instruction is one component of this extensive school-based child abuse educational program.

    The SCAN Team's role in presenting the student lesson is critical. Since all instruction is delivered by the same individuals, there is a strong assurance that consistency in the information presented is maintained and, that all the children receive this information. (The SCAN Team presents the student curriculum to all students every year). In addition, because SCAN Team Members are full-time, on-site certificated staff, any one or all of the team is available on a daily basis to attend to the needs, problems and/or concerns of any child at any time. If a child needs assistance one week, six weeks or six months after the initial presentation, a trained person known to the child is there to help. SCAN Team members return to the classrooms periodically to reintroduce themselves and remind children of their availability and willingness to meet and talk with the child at any time and for any reason.

    The initial basic program includes a directed lesson, film, discussion and question/answer period, and an opportunity for immediate private counseling. The follow-up lesson which takes place approximately six weeks later, focuses on reinforcing the central concepts in a discussion and presenting a different film. The primary message of the instruction emphasizes the value of the child as a human being. The concepts are introduced and developed using a self-esteem approach:

    • you are valuable
    • you are the best person to protect yourself
    • you have rights
    • you can communicate
    • you have power
    • you can get help

    Specific strategies-say "no," get away and tell someone-are presented in both the lesson and the film, "Better Safe than Sorry, II." The film presents real-life situations in a what-if format; students react with the children in the film to potentially abusive situations involving strangers, a neighbor and someone in the family. They learn to say "no" to an adult who is bothering them and that not all secrets should be kept. Telling how you feel is the best rule to follow even when it is another person making you feel funny, bad or uncomfortable. Children are told who to tell and specifically introduced to those at the school site who are available for help. Students are instructed to keep telling until believed. Children learn they have a right to body privacy and that some parts of the body, "private parts," need special protection. After they practice various ways to say "no;" they learn ways to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations. The concepts "It's not your fault" and "It's right to tell" are emphasized throughout.

    After the lesson and film, children have an opportunity to ask questions. Strategies for protection are reinforced and private crisis counseling is immediately available. Four to six weeks later, the SCAN Team members review the concepts using another film, "Now I Can Tell You My Secret." At this time strategies are re-taught, and who and how to tell is reemphasized. If a child discloses or is identified as needing intervention or referral, the SCAN Team members will report to the appropriate agency and coordinate needed services.

    The CARE student instruction stresses safety not fear. It maintains a balance between addressing past and current victims, and not scaring other children. It teaches children that they have rights. It emphasizes the child's self-worth and value. The information provides children the skills necessary for self-protection in potentially abusive situations and gain the confidence to apply these skills. The goal of the instruction is that children learn how to respond to any type of threatening situation. A secure child who knows he is valuable and trusts his feelings is better prepared to recognize potentially dangerous situations, react appropriately, and keep himself safe.