A child’s safety is an adult’s job.
Children are often taught in schools how to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse and that’s important for them to learn. However, that’s no substitute for adult responsibility. We make sure our children wear seat belts. We walk them across busy streets. We store toxic household cleaners out of reach. Why, then, would we leave the job of preventing child sexual abuse solely to children and, “the system”?
At Harbor House
- We offer our Safety Awareness For Everyone “SAFE” Program in schools.
- We provide training to professionals and organizations that interact with children.
- We offer practical advice for parents and caregivers.
Shannon Bond is the creator and presenter of the SAFE (Safety Awareness For Everyone) program. SAFE has been a reoccurring Abuse Prevention program in the following counties for over 30 years and has served over 30,000 students in over 7 school districts.
- Bartow County
- Cartersville City
- Cobb County
- Chattooga County
- Floyd County
- Polk County
- Rome City
Bartow, Cartersville City, Chattooga, Cobb, Floyd County, and Rome City schools have already identified SAFE as a resource to meet the new mandate issued in Georgia Senate Bill 401 (Erin’s Law). SAFE will be serving the students in three grade levels during the 2019-2020 school year.
Every SAFE presentation has components of auditory, visual, rehearsal, and kinesthetic teaching techniques.
By laughing with and providing Shannon with the answers to her questions, students experience multiple ah-ha moments while realizing just how powerful they are today and always. Each SAFE presentation is full of humor, self-empowerment, and active skill-based components. Students leave feeling strong, aware, and prepared.
Shannon’s personal messages are “You Are of Great Worth” and “Tricksters know just how Powerful You Are”.
- Kindergarten/ First Graders use hand motions to solidify the “Touching Rule” into their vocabulary and into their memory.
- Second Graders/ Third Graders add good, bad, and “Uh-Oh” touches (and feelings) and create their own “Safety Plan” for various real-life situations and environments.
- Fourth Graders/ Fifth Graders view the Committee for Children’s Emmy Award-winning movie, Yes you Can Say NO (Seattle Institute for Child Advocacy, Committee for Children, 1990). They are invited to become experts on safety and friendship. We identify together who is on their team and how to recognize tricks and tricksters.
Then, of course, there is Hermenabelle, the puppet. Hermenabelle is the bridge between the words and feelings of those who have been hurt and those whom she is teaching. Hermenabelle is the one whom they rescue again and again. Students actively discover through role-play and problem solving:
- That they can survive.
- That that they are not alone.
- Who their rescuers are.
- That abuse is NEVER their fault.
Steps to having the SAFE Program in your school:
- Contact Shannon Bond at 770-401-4201 (Call or Text) or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Give a list of dates you would like for her to come and the number of classes you would like her to serve.
- Shannon will respond and work on the details (cost, class sizes, time needed) and confirm dates.
- Send a Parent’s letter to the parents/guardians (Shannon can provide examples) inviting them to preview or attend with their child. Many schools have a Parent Orientation program prior to the class presentations.
Provide a location (classroom, library, large area) where she can meet with the students, a chair, and a desk or table.
Harbor House Training Programs
Harbor House provides prevention training programs that educate adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child abuse, and motivates them to take action when abuse is suspected. The program is designed for organizations serving children and youth. Contact us for more information or to schedule a training.
The curriculum can be used by individuals or organizations who are:
- Seeking training for staff and volunteers in the prevention of child sexual abuse
- Wanting to make a difference in their community by educating adults about the protection of children
- Needing to respond to insurance requirements regarding child protection
The program includes:
- Interactive case studies based upon actual events where professionals and caregivers were faced with situations where they had to make decisions and take actions to help stop abuse
- Opportunity for discussion about important issues in sexual abuse prevention and the relevance of these issues within organizations that serve children and adolescents
- Discussion of recent updates to Georgia State Laws in regards to mandated reporting
Learn some simple steps that you, as an adult, can do to protect children:
- Learn the facts and understand the risks. Realities, not trust, should influence your decisions regarding your child.
- Minimize opportunity. If you eliminate or reduce one-adult/one-child situations, you’ll lower the risk of your child becoming a victim.
- Talk about it. Children usually keep abuse a secret. However barriers can be broken down by talking openly about it.
- Stay alert. Don’t expect obvious signs when a child is being sexually abused. If there are signs, they are easily attributed to other things.
- Make a plan. Be ready if your child tells you that he/she has been abused.
- Act on suspicions. If you have a concern, take action!
People who abuse children look and act just like everyone else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy to gain access to children. Perpetrators gain trust in the child and the child’s parents. This process, called grooming, can sometimes last for years. Physical contact with the child often begins with “out-in-the-open” touches that appear appropriate and normal–a pat on the shoulder, an occasional hug, a tickle on the back of the neck… As the child becomes accustomed to these touches, the perpetrator moves towards inappropriate touching.
- Statistically, your child will endure sexual abuse for 6 months before making an outcry.
- Only one in ten child victims reports the abuse.
- Teaching your kids ‘stranger danger’ protects them from less then 1% of abusers/perpetrators. That leaves your child vulnerable to millions of perpetrators–and YOUR child fits the profile that a perpetrator (somewhere) seeks. Teach your children that NOBODY has a right to touch them inappropriately–even neighbors, step-parents, relatives, or siblings.
- Abusers can target (in order of likelihood–first being most) a neighbor’s child, step-child, niece/nephew, biological child, sibling, stranger, grandchild, and others.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to absolutely guarantee that your child will not be abused. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of abuse occurring. There are also steps you can take to increase the likelihood that your child tells right away when inappropriate touching occurs. Understand that abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families, enjoying family activities and earning family trust.
- Talk to your children about appropriate/inappropriate touching.
- Avoid placing your child alone with one adult. Look for group situations instead.
- Lobby for policies limiting one-adult/one-child situations in all youth-related activities such as faith groups, sports teams, and school clubs. Make sure parents can interrupt or observe activities at any time and that background checks are done on people working directly with children. Tell those that work with your child in these settings that you have talked to your children about appropriate/inappropriate touching.
- Insist that these groups train their staff to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
- Drop in unexpectedly when your child is alone with any adult or older child.
- Monitor your child’s Internet use, as this is how child molesters often interact privately with children, with the goal of luring them into physical contact.
- Set an example by personally avoiding one-adult/one-child situations with children.
Understand why children won’t tell…
- Children are afraid of disappointing their parents. They’re also afraid of disrupting the family.
- The abuser sometimes threatens the child or a family member.
- The abuser shames the child, points out that she let it happen, or tells her that her parents will be angry.
- Some children who did not initially disclose abuse are afraid or ashamed to tell when it happens again.
- Some children are too young to understand. Many abusers tell children the abuse is ‘okay’ or a ‘game.’
Know how children communicate:
- Children who do disclose sexual abuse often tell a trusted adult other than a parent. Training for people who work with children is especially important.
- Children may tell ‘parts’ of what happened or pretend it happened to someone else to gauge adult reaction.
- Children will often ‘shut down’ and refuse to tell more if you respond emotionally or negatively.
- If your child does not talk to you, don’t think it’s a sign of poor parenting.
Talk openly with your child:
- Good communication may decrease your child’s vulnerability and increase the likelihood that he will tell you if he is sexually abused.
- Teach your child that it is your job to protect him.
- Teach your child that it is not his/her responsibility to protect others.
- Demonstrate daily that you will not be angry, no matter what your child tells you about any aspect of his life.
- Listen quietly. Children have a hard time telling parents about troubling events.
- Teach your child about her body, about what abuse is. Teach him/her words that help her discuss parts of the body comfortably with you.
- Tell the child the NOBODY should touch his/her private parts unless it’s to help keep him/her clean or healthy.
- Start early and talk often. Use everyday opportunities to talk about sexual abuse.
Contrary to popular belief, there probably will not be any signs of sexual abuse if a child is molested. Physical findings are not common. However, redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections or other such symptoms should not go ignored. Also, physical problems associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
Emotional or behavioral signals are more common. However, some children do not show any obvious emotional distress. Some children can be abused and maintain “honor roll” status. If there are emotional changes, these changes can run from ‘too perfect’ behavior, to withdrawal and depression, to unexplained anger and rebellion.
- Sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate can be a red flag.
- Be aware that in some children there are no signs whatsoever.