Child sexual abuse is defined by the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) as “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familiar relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.”
Unfortunately, it has only been within the last few decades that we—as a society—have begun to acknowledge how widespread child sexual abuse has been and how much it has hurt children.
Listed below are some staggering statistics:
- Every 6 minutes, a child is sexually assaulted in the United States.
- Only 1 in 10 sexually abused children tell someone.
- In 90% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows and trusts the person who sexually abuses them, i.e., friend, neighbor, clergy, teacher, family member, coach, babysitter, etc.
- One in three girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
In an effort to educate students, parents, teachers, community leaders, etc. about the dangers of child sexual abuse, Governor Robert Bentley signed the enactment of Erin’s Law (Act 2015-456) on June 11, 2015. Erin’s Law is legislation that requires public schools to provide child sexual abuse prevention education to students in grades K-12. In addition, all school personnel are expected to be provided with professional development in regards to talking with students about child sexual abuse prevention, the effects of child sexual abuse on children, the handling of child sexual abuse disclosure, and mandated reporting.
The main intent of Erin’s Law is to shatter the silence and stigma around child sexual abuse and to educate children and to empower them to recognize and to report abuse.
As a result of Baldwin County School System’s partnership with CARE House, the Child Advocacy Center for Baldwin County, we are able to provide the Safer, Smarter Kids and the Safer, Smarter Teens curriculum to students in grades K—12. Developed by Lauren Book, M.S.Ed., a child abuse survivor, child advocate and educator, and founder and CEO of the Lauren’s Kids Foundation, both the Safer, Smarter Kids and Safer, Smarter Teens curriculum is designed to provide critical safety information to children, parents, and teachers.
The Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum (Grades K-5) follows a developmentally appropriate sequence of instruction for elementary school students, thereby helping children to develop skills to stay safe as their world expands. Each grade level program in the curriculum includes five to eight lessons that are designed for easy integration into the classroom.
The curriculum is designed to empower elementary school-aged children to protect themselves in situations where someone could abuse them. Children are armed with protective principles and vocabulary to express their feelings and to talk to a trusted adult. The following safety topics are covered: Safety awareness\Respecting yourself and others\Developing self-esteem\Assessing safe vs. unsafe situations. Understanding rules and responsibilities\Identifying and protecting body boundaries\ Listening to a guiding voice\Accessing help and trusted adults\Determining safe vs. unsafe secrets\Determining safe vs. unsafe touches\Practicing cyber safety and digital citizenship\Establishing personal power and influence.
The Safer, Smarter Teens curriculum (Grades 6-12) empowers middle and high school students to tap into their personal power and become advocates for change in their communities, while learning how to use their voices to better protect themselves and others. The curriculum includes five lessons that are designed for easy integration into the classroom.
The middle school curriculum, which is entitled The Safer, Smarter Teens: Personal Power teaches students how to recognize danger and how to use their personal power to say “no,” get help, set boundaries, and become leaders. Middle school students learn about the warning signs of unsafe situations and what actions they can take to reduce risks, stay safe, and access help through scenario-based video lessons and in-class activities.
The high school curriculum, which is entitled The Safer, Smarter Teens: Be the Change addresses personal safety and the balance of power in relationships and topics such as sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and dating violence though real-life conversations with abuse survivors, law enforcement, educators, and experts. This curriculum will empower students to know what to do in an unsafe situation, who to turn to for help, and how to help a friend in need.
By educating oneself, it is believed that we can become a powerful force in making the world a safer place for children.