Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood, religion or church group, racial or ethnic group, and among the rich, the poor and everywhere in between. Knowing this, child safety and abuse prevention education is needed in each and every community to give children, parents and teachers the resources and knowledge base to protect children.
Here are a few safety tips for you and your child:
- Who is a stranger? We have found during our travels that children all around the world describe a “stranger” as a big, scary man wearing dark clothes and holding a weapon. Children see a stranger as someone who will harm them, and who looks physically intimidating. The reality is that “stranger danger” is obsolete; in more than 90 percent of abuse cases, a child is suffering at the hands of someone they – and they adults in their lives – know, love and trust. Children need to know that a stranger is simply anyone they do not know well, and that they should decide if a person is safe or unsafe based on the way someone makes them feel, not how they look or how well they know them.
- Is it safe to keep secrets? Often, children are asked to keep things like a surprise birthday party a secret. While this is an example of a safe secret, it’s critical for a child to know when a secret is safe or unsafe to keep. If a secret will eventually be told and will make everyone happy and smile, then it is a safe secret. However, if a child is asked to never tell an adult and it makes them feel scared, confused or “icky,” that is a very unsafe secret and they should tell a trusted adult right away.
- Ask for help! Establishing a “Trusted Triangle” – a list of three adults that your child can go to whenever they need help or feel uncomfortable about a situation – is crucial. Teach your child that when they share information to keep themselves or their friends safe, it’s reporting, not tattling. Children should know that when their guiding voice is telling them something is wrong, it’s always OK to use their “I Mean Business Voice” to say, “Stop! This makes me feel unsafe.” They should continue to tell a trusted adult until they get the two “H’s”: heard and helped.
As a former educator, I know that when we teach children that it is always OK to tell if something or someone is making them feel scared, confused or icky, we provide them with a very necessary tool to protect themselves. In 2012, Lauren’s Kids launched the Safer, Smarter Kids abuse prevention curriculum. This curriculum teaches children what to do if they feel like something is not quite right or if they believe they are in an unsafe situation.
Safer, Smarter Kids consists of age-appropriate lessons for children ranging from Pre-K to grade three with fourth and fifth grade, middle and high school installments becoming available in the 2015-2016 school year. If your child’s teacher is not currently teaching this curriculum, please encourage them to visit SaferSmarterKids.org to request their curriculum today. In the State of Florida the Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum is available at no cost to teachers of state-funded schools and VPK programs.
Through the Lauren’s Kids foundation, I work each and every day to prevent child sexual abuse and help survivors heal through advocacy, awareness and education. Each March and April, I lead a 1,500-mile “Walk in My Shoes” walk across the state of Florida, beginning at the Southernmost Point of the U.S. in Key West, walking north and criss-crossing from coast to coast, community to community until I reach the steps of the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee on April 22. I walk to educate communities, advocate for legislative change to better protect children and support survivors and to create a safer tomorrow for families living in the Sunshine State. To learn more, visit LaurensKids.org.
Safer, Smarter Kids is an abuse prevention education curriculum designed for Pre-K and elementary-aged children, created by the Lauren’s Kids foundation. Lauren’s Kids is an organization founded and led by Lauren Book, M.S.Ed., child sexual abuse survivor, internationally respected child advocate and educator who works to prevent child abuse and help survivors heal. Through in-school curriculum, legislative advocacy and speaking engagements, Lauren Book works to educate communities and raise awareness about the growing issue of child sexual abuse.