Personal Safety and Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is a serious public health concern that impacts children, families, communities and, inevitably, school environments. Educators play an important role in addressing this issue because:
- they have a unique relationship with children and their families; putting them in a good position to deliver what can be a very sensitive subject matter;
- they have overwhelmingly been identified by children as a safe adult to whom children would disclose abuse or concerning experiences; and
- they have expertise in teaching and work within a structure to successfully deliver prevention education.
In order to protect children from sexual abuse, it is important to understand what it is, how it happens and how to recognize behaviours that may signal a child in distress. Research shows that offenders are less likely to target children who present a risk of telling. Teaching children personal safety strategies will therefore reduce their chances of victimization.
Kids in the Know can be used by educators to teach children important safety skills to help prevent child sexual abuse and increase the likelihood of a child disclosing concerning sexual experiences. Lessons include:
- Identifying a Safe Adult Helping children identify the adults in their lives they can talk to in the event they are harmed.
- Identifying or Labelling Feelings Promoting awareness of emotions and explaining how to recognize and express feelings in one’s self and others.
- Healthy versus Unhealthy Relationships Helping children understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy or controlling behaviours in relationships
- Boundaries Helping children understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.
- Assertiveness Teaching children that it is okay to say “no” to someone that makes them feel confused or uncomfortable.
- Safety Considerations around Technology Use Teaching children about the important safety considerations when using technology.
Child Sexual Abuse and Picture Taking:
Sexual abuse can range from the most obvious contact offences such as touching or fondling genitalia to exposure to sexually explicit material. Child pornography or child sexual abuse images/videos also fall within the continuum. The creation of child pornography often involves a real child being sexually abused and this abuse being captured by the offender who may subsequently make this content available and/or distribute it.
Recognizing the connection between child pornography and sexual abuse, Kids in the Know incorporates lessons that teach children to disclose any secrets about picture taking.