The Center has presented Safe Touch to kids in our community for over 30 years. These violence prevention education programs use evidence-based best practices in age-appropriate lessons to promote safety and reduce child sexual abuse. The curriculum is continually reviewed and updated with teacher and parent input.
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is unfortunately much more common than many people realize. Darkness to Light (D2L), a national organization to end child abuse, estimates that about 1 in 10 children experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. Even more children experience non-contact sexual abuse. Only about a third of kids tell someone when they experience abuse. CSA occurs across all demographic groups and can have long-lasting negative impacts such as physical and mental health problems, emotional and behavioral issues, and poor academic performance.
Though the problem of CSA looms large, the Center has a successful prevention program on multiple counts. First, by sheer numbers, we are very successful in getting these crucial public safety messages out to the county. We present SafeTouch programs in every classroom of every elementary school in both local school districts. Overall, we reached 14,805 youth and adults in 865 education programs during the 2013-2014 school year.
Second, we know that our programs work! Through rigorous assessment and evaluation, we found that 94 percent of 4th graders who had been in our program in the year previous could accurately remember the safety saying. Additionally, when compared with students who had not received Safe Touch programs, students who had been through our 4th and 5th grade programs were significantly more likely to accurately identify cyber-bullying and sexual harassment and to have positive beliefs about reporting inappropriate or unwanted behaviors.
And third, we help stop abuse in our community. We train our staff and volunteers to look for signs of possible child abuse, or ‘red flags,’ during programs. We work with school personnel and Child Protective Services to investigate any disclosures or red flags and ensure that children receive the services they need. During the 2013-2014 school year, we followed up on 12 direct disclosures of abuse received during our classroom presentations and on 119 ‘red flag’ signs of potential abuse. For any of those children who disclosed abuse or exhibited red flag behaviors, the support and care they received through our intervention is a success story indeed.
For information about our programs and how to request one for your group, visit ocrcc.org/education-and-outreach.
Alyson Culin is our Development & Marketing Director. She supports the Center through fundraising, communications, and outreach efforts.