Now that you are used to either requiring or recommending adults in your community to take a child sexual abuse prevention training class, it's time to empower the children. Educating and empowering children to experience a life free from sexual abuse is a multi-step process that unfolds as they mature and includes the five key components listed below.
Parents are ultimately responsible for educating their children on these key components but youth-serving organizations can play an important role in empowering children as well. As a matter of fact, since many children are being abused in their own home, youth-serving organizations may be the only opportunity for children to learn this important information.
As an advocate, you will help educate parents and youth-serving organizations on their role and the existing materials that are available to help them be effective in the process. You may even elect to teach children directly by learning to deliver one of the many children's prevention programs on the market. There is a broad set of resources available to help educate children on these five components and a good reference list can be found in the book entitled 8 Ways to Create their Fate.
Depending on the type of programs individual youth-serving organizations offer, they may or may not have the opportunity to engage children in all five key components but at a minimum, every organization should be empowering children with the boundaries they have established. If the children are toddlers, you can just focus on the first component for now, adding the others as they mature. If you are just starting this program and the children are older, you should move through the components at a slow but steady pace until you have "caught up" to their maturity level.
- Respect Healthy Boundaries: Tell kids the boundaries that stop grooming behaviors and empower them to expect the boundaries to be honored
- Talk about Sex and Sexual Abuse: Help kids embrace healthy sexuality and teach them the language of abuse, giving them permission to tell
- Have a Heart for Others: Develop in children a compassionate heart for others who are hurting and how to get help if a friend is being abused
- Recognize Healthy Peer Relationships: Equip children to create healthy relationships with peers and recognize signs of abusive relationships
- Establish Healthy Relationships with Younger Children: Prepare older children to manage their own behavior and boundaries with younger children and to recognize concerning behavior in others
The vast majority of the boundaries set forth in this program are designed to be managed by parents and the other surrounding adults collectively, especially during the preschool years. However, there are a number of boundaries that could be broken without an adult's knowledge. Therefore, kids need to be empowered by knowing what those boundaries are and instilling in them the expectation that they will be honored.
Boundaries that protect kids from sexual abuse are no different than boundaries or safety rules in other areas of their lives. When a child says they're going to go outside and ride their bike, we naturally respond by saying "Make sure you wear your helmet and stay out of the street." We don't go into gory detail about mangled bodies that would traumatize them but we do make sure they know how to put their helmet on and where the sidewalk ends and the street begins (the boundary). In the same way, we don't have to provide kids details about sexually inappropriate acts when we're talking with them about boundaries.
Empowering kids to hold others accountable for honoring these boundaries is as easy as 1-2-3!
- Tell kids the boundaries
- Tell kids to remind anyone who forgets a boundary
- Tell kids to tell their parents and another surrounding adult when someone forgets
As advocates, you will receive an extensive list of resources to empower you to help organizations and parents alike educate their children on all 5 components listed above.