Break The Silence

The recent Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State has brought National attention to the issue of child abuse. Since we MUST protect our most precious resource - our children - I've decided to address the topic that's touchy for me because of something I've kept silent about for a very long time. It's just not a story that I like to share and it's certainly not unique. When I was about ten years old, a trusted neighbor took my hand and coaxed me touch him inside of his swim trunks while we were swimming in the lake at a family picnic.

Fortunately I knew enough to say no and was able to get myself out of that scary, unwanted-and-wrong-touch situation pretty quickly. The unfortunate part was that I did not tell anyone about it. He was a well-liked neighbor, after all, and I wasn't even certain whom I would tell or what I'd say. I knew that everything about the situation wasn't right, but my little ten-year-old self just didn't know what to do next. So I said nothing, and my silence meant I never got the counseling help that I needed to work through what had happened. I needed someone to tell me it wasn't my fault and that not all men were inappropriate and not to be trusted. What would follow for me were years of body-image problems, trust issues and addictive behaviors. 

Keeping quiet also meant that the perpetrator wouldn't suffer any consequences for his actions or get the therapy he needed to stop offending. I don't know how many other children he hurt over the years, but some thirty years later after he victimized his granddaughters, he was arrested and finally stopped. Oh, how I wish I'd have had known what to do, to not only say no and get out of harms way, but also to tell. Knowledge is power; that's why I firmly believe that we must educate our children to help them stay safe and break the silence.

Sexual abuse statistics are staggering; in more than 90% of child abuse cases, it's a family member or close friend who makes inappropriate physical contact or advances. At our school, we've brought in outside programs like WHO (We Help Ourselves) and SKATE (Safe Kids Are Taught Early). Our DARE officer also touches on stranger danger and safety in his classes. And now I'm excited that this new Starshine Workshop product
Healthy Touch, Good Boundaries, Safe Kids
is also available to give our students concrete strategies about what to do if they're caught in an uncomfortable situation like mine. 

From the Rising Star Education website - StarShine Workshop: Healthy Touch, Good Boundaries, Safe Kids is an introductory video geared to opening up discussion for 2nd-5th grade students by teaching kids healthy touch and how it is different from wrong touch. It also teaches kids about good boundaries and "No, Go, Tell" as a response to situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Approved by child psychologists and educators, this program also features a parent/teacher video which tells likely warning signs of child sexual abuse and teaches the proper response to these signs. The program addresses all of the suggested topics in Erin’s Law, a bill that is aiming to mandate age-appropriate sexual abuse education for children.

This tool pragmatically addresses the tough topic with sensitivity and clarity. In the video, two likable young adults, Rachel and Paul, work with a class and teach them to differentiate between healthy touch (hugs, kisses from someone you know), bad touch (hitting, kicking), and wrong touch (unwanted contact in private areas) through discussion and role play. They also make a distinction between good secrets vs. bad secrets. They put the students into a Circle of Comfort to categorize the people in their lives and practice how to behave should certain issues arise. They give participants a clear-cut empowerment strategy that kids can use to maintain good boundaries:

No, Go, Tell

This product includes an accompanying parent/teacher video of an interview with a child psychologist that'll teach the warning signs of sexual abuse, discuss appropriate responses for when a child reports, and provide some follow-up activities and exercises to open up dialogue that'll help keep our children safe. There are also three interactive scenarios that allow students to decide what they'd do. I did notice that they all involve male aggressors, so I'd actually write a fourth with my students and challenge them to come up with a situation in which it's a female predator.
Click {here} to see a video clip trailer.

Healthy Touch, Good Boundaries, Safe Kids will be on the market starting November 1st, 2012; it can be pre-ordered {here} now.  

NOTE:  I was not compensated for this review and endorsement.


  1. My heart breaks about your unfortunate childhood experience. So many others kids experienced the "what do I do now, who do I tell, will I get in trouble" issue. It is up to the school to help provide those answers and I am proud to say we have a wonderful protective behavior curriculum in our school. We too use the police liaison officer. Thanks also for the tip about Starshine. I love their internet safety video too.

    1. Thanks, Jo. My struggles are part of the reason I do what I do, because counselors who've traveled through difficult times and come out on the other side are better equipped to help their clients, right? I'm glad you like the Starshine series and that your school is addressing this tough topic!

  2. Barbara, thank you for your courage in talking about your experience when you were 10; even though I've seen the statistics, it still shocks me when I hear about the the abusive experiences of people around me. We ramped up our personal safety lessons this year and I am so glad because I think kids need to know not only that it could happen to them, but also that if it does and they tell an adult they trust, they won't be in trouble because it's NEVER their fault. Never, never, never. Thanks for the link to this new resource.

    1. Hi Tanya. I appreciate your feedback and agree that when they say one in five, it's difficult to grasp. I wrestled with whether or not to share my personal connection to this sensitive topics, but in the end it made sense.

  3. Hugs. Thanks for sharing such a personal story.


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