Abuse Prevention Programs
Our Abuse Prevention Programs share vital information about the four types of child abuse (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect) in an age-appropriate context. Children learn to distinguish between abuse and discipline, and what they can do if someone is hurting them.
This curriculum is an educational tool designed to:
- Explain and define the types of child abuse
- Provide information about agencies who offer services for children and families in need of help
- Teach children how to identify helping adults that can keep them safe
- Assist teachers, parents and caregivers with knowledge and skills to discuss and monitor the presence of child abuse on an ongoing basis
- Encourage alternatives to violent behaviour
- Encourage children to talk an adult if they think they may be in an abusive situation
- Reinforce the notion that child abuse is NEVER the child's fault
The Abuse Program Characters are:
Stephen Arthurs was physically abused by his mom. By telling his teacher, he and his family were able to get help. Stephen now helps others and even set up a hotline where kids can call and discuss their problems.
Joanne Spinoza was sexually abused by her mom's boyfriend. She found the courage to tell and get help. Joanne and Stephen have become confidants as a result of their shared experiences. Joanne is a vibrant, spirited teen with big goals and aspirations.
Nam Nguyen is a friend to Stephen and Joanne. Sometimes he gets confused about what child abuse is. Nam's hilarious antics add a touch of comic relief.
The Abuse Prevention Scripts are:
*Open House - Nam has heard a rumour that the scars on Stephen's arm and face were caused by hs mom, who hits him really hard. Nam confronts Stephen and learns the truth. The script dispels common myths about abusive parents, including the notion that abusive parents don't love their kids, and outlines the steps taken so Stephen and his family could get help. (grades 2/3)
*Hotline - Nam has learned a lot about child abuse, but he is still confused about what child abuse is. He is convinced that his parents are "abusing" him. Stephen helps Nam to understand what child abuse is and is not. Nam learns that it is okay to ask questions when he is not sure about something. (grades 2-5)
*Learning How To Tell - As a reporter for the school newspaper, Nam asks Joanne to share her story. She explains that you must be sensitive when you talk to a kid about abuse, especially about sexual abuse. Joanne demonstrates how she persisted in finding someone to tell. She serves as a model for children who may have experienced abuse and are unsure about how to tell. (grades 4/5)
Between Friends - Through role-play, Joanne demonstrates to Stephen how she told a trusted adult about her sexual abuse. The script reminds kids that sexual abuse is not the fault of the child, and that telling can be difficult. Through Joanne's courage and candor, we learn that sometimes the most difficult things to talk about are the most important.
Working on It - Stephen confides in Joanne when he is having a tough day. They discuss how, even when a family is getting help, recovery can be difficult. Joanne, who is older and whose abuse happened several years earlier, is able to help Stephen and provide support.
NOTE: Not all scripts are performed at each show. Appropriate material is selected for each audience based on their age.
*Indicates most frequently used scripts.
About the Physical Abuse Prevention Program
When Stephen learned that discipline in his friends' homes meant time-outs or a loss of privileges, he began to suspect that the cuts and bruises he received from his mom were a sign that something was wrong.
Developed with assistance from various child welfare organizations, the Kids on the Block Program on Physical Abuse features puppet character Stephen Arthurs, a ten-year old boy who took steps to help himself and his mom by disclosing about his own physical abuse.
What is Physical Abuse?
Simply put, physical abuse is any act by a caregiver that causes physical harm to a child or creates a risk of harm. Physical abuse may occur if a child is punished harshly, even though the parent/caregiver may not have meant to hurt the child. A spanking or act of physical discipline is distinguished from child abuse by its severity. No spanking should result in marks, bruises, cuts or other injuries to a child. Physical punishment should not leave prolonged pain (e.g. being hit so hard it hurts to sit down). No child should ever be hit with an object, including a belt, wooden spoon, stick or fist. No child should have objects thrown at them, or be struck in the face or head. A high percentage of physical abuse cases are the result of accidental overuse of force. Many instances of physical abuse could be prevented by using non-physical discipline.
Even with these guidelines, determining what is and isn't abuse can be difficult. For this reason, children are encouraged to ask a trusted adult or helping professional such as a teacher if they are not sure.
Discipline vs. Child Abuse
Here are some guidelines to understanding what is appropriate with regards to discipling children.
Examples of Appropriate Discipline
Time outs (shouldn't be longer in minutes than the age of the child in years)
Loss of priviledges such as tv time or video games
Rewarding positive behaviour and discouraging negative behaviour
Setting consistent expectations, met with consistent rewards and/or punishments
Examples of Inappropriate Discipline
Hitting to cause pain, or hitting which leaves marks
Deprivation of meals or other basic needs (such as bathroom priviledges)
Forced isolation (includes being locked out of the house, in the basement or in a closet)
Choking or hitting with objects, throwing objects
Acts of physical or emotional cruelty (such as verbal insults against a child)
Inconsistency and outbursts
More information on identifying various types of child abuse is available in our Teacher's Corner.
About The Sexual Abuse Prevention Program
Several years earlier, when she was ten, fourteen-year-old Joanne Spinoza was molested by her mother's boyfriend. "He brought me presents and took me places. My mom and I trusted him. But he used my trust to trick me!" says Joanne. She describes the incident and talks about how she told, and how she and her mother got the counselling help they needed to get them through this difficult situation.
Joanne is the main character of the Sexual Abuse Prevention Program. She discusses, in relatively specific detail, the events surrounding her own abuse. She describes whom and how she told, and demonstrates how children faced with similar circumstances can find help. Joanne's vibrant spirit shows kids how, with help and encouragement, abused kids can thrive.
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse occurs when an adult engages a child in (or exposes a child to) any form of sexual activity. The abuser is more powerful than the child and exploits their need to be taken care of. Children are not capable of giving informed consent under any circumstances. Sexual abuse includes (but is not limited to): touching, fondling, oral contact, viewing pornography, exposing oneself to a child, and inserting objects or body parts into the anus or vagina. It is important to note that sexual abuse can occur without penetration. Sexual abuse is more complex than simple 'good touch/bad touch', particularly since some acts of sexual abuse may be physically pleasurable to a child. It is important to remove the stigma and shame associated with this act. At Kids on the Block, we refer to our genitals and the surrounding area as private parts. Private parts are defined as the area covered by a one-piece bathing suit for a girl, or a pair of shorts for a boy.
The Complexities of Sexual Abuse
When teaching children about sexual abuse, we must first recognize that children develop at varying rates. Some children need assistance with toileting, dressing and general hygiene for much longer than others. To address these developmental variances, the sexual abuse portion of our program is usually presented to students who are in Grade 3 or older. We teach children that their bodies belong to them, and that they have a right to privacy, particularly once they are old enough to be responsible for their own personal care (i.e. they can bathe/shower on their own, dress themselves, etc). We encourage children to take good care of their bodies and to respect their bodies. Generally, this means that no one should touch them in their private parts. There are possible legitmate exceptions, such as for a medical reason. Again, if a child is unsure about a touch, or is uncomfortable, we encourage them to talk to a trusted adult or helping professional.
Babies and younger children have a right to be protected from sexual abuse too, but it is trickier to define. There are guidelines that can help. For children who still need help washing their private parts or toileting, touches should not linger or be longer than necessary. Touches should not hurt. No one should tickle or play with your private parts. There should be no 'secret' or 'special' touches involving private parts. Nothing should ever be inserted inside of you. Children should be taught how to do their own personal care as soon as possible. Remember also, that a child should never have to touch other people's private parts for any reason.
We are careful to point out that if sexual abuse does happen, it is not the fault of the child, even if they did not say 'no' or try to stop it. We are equally as careful not to place the responsibility upon the child to stop an adult, since we know that children are, in most instances, physically, emotionally and psychologically incapable of asserting themselves against an adult who is going to abuse them. The issue is further complicated by the fact that children are conditioned to comply with adult requests. From a very young age, children are taught to obey grownups, be it their parents, teachers, babysitters or caregivers. Expecting a child to override this programming in the case of sexual abuse can be stressful to their basic sense of right and wrong. At Kids on the Block, we teach kids that an adult should never ask them to do something that they know is wrong, such as smoke, drink alcohol, steal, or engage in any form of sexual activity. The grownup is supposed to know better. Kids have the right to say "NO" to any of these requests. However, a kid might not have a choice. The adult is bigger, stronger and more powerful than the child. The kid might have to do what the adult says. NO MATTER HOW THE CHILD RESPONDS, IT IS NEVER THE CHILD'S FAULT. IT IS THE ADULT'S RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW BETTER. If this happens to a child, we encourage them to tell a trusted adult as soon as they can. If they are in immediate danger, they can also call 911.
The Importance of Disclosure in Breaking a Vicious Cycle
One study suggests that a sexual abuser assaults an average of sixty-eight children before being arrested. Through the puppets, children can learn that they are not to blame for a sexual assault, that they can say no, and that there is a way to tell what has happened. Well-informed, prepared children can be instrumental in interrupting the vicious cycle of child sexual abuse. Children learn that adults who do sexual abuse need help to stop. By telling on an adult that has done sexual abuse (even someone you love), you are allowing them to get the help they need, not simply getting them in trouble. Is that a lot of responsibility to place on a child? You bet! But unfortunately, if a child never shares their experience, they leave themselves and other children at risk for repeat occurrences, and are left to deal with a sea of complex and potentially damaging emotions all by themselves. Through Joanne's courage and candor, children learn that sometimes the hardest things to talk about are the most important!
Sexual Abuse and Strangers
Without in any way diminishing the threat of strangers or abductions, it is important to note that the vast majority of sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by a person that the child knows (and often loves or trusts). That can include immediate and extended family, step family, neighbours, coaches, babysitters, teachers, and other child care providers. Essentially, the people that are most likely to abuse a child are those that have regular access to them. What does this mean if you are a parent? Don't be shy to seek references, ask questions, trust your instincts, and above all....to keep the lines of communication open with your child.
What if my Child Discloses Abuse?
If your child discloses any kind of abuse to you, it is not your responsibility to substantiate or investigate it. Contact your local Children's Aid Society (or similar child protection agency in your area), or your local Police for further assistance.
Disclosures and Kids on the Block
All scripts used by Kids on the Block are designed to be preventative in nature. Each script has been developed so that children can learn about abuse before the fact. The reality is that some children in our community have experienced some form of child abuse. Occasionally children wish to talk to the puppet or puppeteer about their experience. When this does occur, every effort is made to allow the child a safe, private enviroment in which to make their disclosure. All disclosures remain strictly confidential and are referred immediately to the appropriate agency as directed by the Child and Family Services Act. The Kids on the Block Program does not seek to treat, validate or further investigate such disclosures. All children who make a disclosure are commended for their courage and bravery to do so.
Visit our Teacher's Corner for more information and activities on all forms of child abuse.