Advocate tries new approach to developing child sexual abuse prevention curriculum
- An advocate for teaching children to protect themselves again sexual abuse says she will work with a nonprofit advocacy center to create a curriculum after the Montana Office of Public Instruction has indicated it will not create such lessons, the Missoulian reports.
- House Bill 298, which passed this year, encourages the state education agency to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and increase efforts to prevent it, but it doesn’t include any funding or require schools to do anything. Called Tara’s Law, the legislation was named for Tara Walker Lyons, who was abused as a child and advocated for a stronger version of the legislation that would include requiring curriculum.
- State education officials say that curriculum development is a local matter, but that they will focus on creating classes that address childhood sexual abuse as part of professional development requirements for educators.
With women — and some men —continuing to share #MeToo testimonies on social media, acknowledging that they were subjected to sexual abuse or misconduct in the past, the public has become aware that such incidents are far more prevalent than thought. As a result, there are increasing calls to teach children early how to refuse inappropriate touching and protect themselves.
Just before Thanksgiving, the Girl Scouts urged parents not to expect their daughters to hug or show affection to family members they might only see during the holidays. “Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,” the message says. The post also adds quote from Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, who said that “sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
And in a related announcement, earlier this month, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced that it is working with Discovery Education, a provider of digital education resources, to make a teen dating violence curriculum available to K-12 schools.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, about half of the states have some type of legislation related developing curriculum to prevent child sexual abuse or increasing teachers’ abilities to recognize and report it. Other laws create task forces to study the issue. A status report from Prevent Child Abuse America is another source of updated information on what states require. But even without such laws or recommendations, school administrators can make sure educators have opportunities to learn how to recognize signs of abuse in school and understand appropriate boundaries with students.
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