Sexual child abuse- that could never happen to our children. I certainly hope not but I combine hope with proactive education. I know so many people that were abused to some degree as children, that I recognize it is a real danger.
That is why I am so honored to have Lauren Book share with us today. Lauren Book, M.S.Ed., is a 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. Lauren’s Kids is an organization founded and led by Lauren Book. and it has created Safer, Smarter Kids, an abuse prevention education curriculum designed for pre-K and elementary-aged children. I thankful to her being so brave and working to educate others on child abuse prevention
Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
By Lauren Book
Every child deserves a safe, happy and healthy childhood. This includes the carefree innocence that comes with feeling secure, protected and loved. Although this is our hope for each and every child, the reality is that there are millions of children who do not experience the childhood they deserve. In fact, I was one such child stripped of my childhood at the hands of someone my family and I trusted, my female nanny. I wish I could say my experience is rare, but the truth is my story is similar to the stories of so many other children.
Although my life was colored by the experiences I had as a young girl, I have made it a point to choose that color and to work every day to help make the world a safer place for children. The terrible reality is that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys in the United States are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays. Like many of these children, I did not know how to recognize the unsafe situation I was in or the traps my abuser was setting. By the time my abuse began, the fear, shame and blame I felt was overwhelming, causing me to suffer in silence for six years. Additionally, my friends and family did not recognize the signs. Armed with the knowledge that 95 percent of child sexual abuse can be prevented through education and awareness, I decided to use my story to help others in similar situations. In 2007, I started the Lauren’s Kids foundation, a nonprofit organization based in South Florida that seeks to prevent abuse and help survivors heal.
Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood, religion or church group, racial or ethnic group, 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.
Teaching Children to be Safer and Smarter
Here are a few safety tips for you and your child:
Tattling vs. Reporting
Often young children are discouraged by their peers from being “tattle-tales,” or telling an adult every time they see something “bad” happen. Discuss the difference between tattling and reporting with your child. Reporting is when someone is in danger. Reportable things include touching in uncomfortable areas, saying things that make a child feel confused or “icky,” or asking a child to go somewhere alone the child does not want to or feels is unsafe. It must be made clear that reporting is always, always OK and you’d rather your child report something they may feel unsure about rather than keep it a secret.
Think, Feel, Act
Discuss with your child the idea of “Think, Feel, and Act”: When something confusing happens, first, think about what has happened and ask “Is this safe? Is this something I should report to an adult?”. Then they should ask themselves how they feel. Do they feel uncomfortable, icky, or unsure if the act was safe? Do they feel confused or ashamed? If so, they should act by telling a trusted adult, teacher or someone in charge. Remember, it’s always better to report something that made them feel uncomfortable than to keep it a secret.
Ask For Help!
It’s important to help children establish a “Trusted Triangle,” a list of three adults that your child can go to whenever they need help or feel uncomfortable about a situation. 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! That’s not safe.” 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, you may encourage them to visit SaferSmarterKids.org to request their curriculum today.
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. I urge you to join me as I walk through your community in 2015. To learn more and view the walk schedule, visit LaurensKids.org.