We know that childhood sexual violence has a lasting impact on survivors, their families, and significantly impacts our communities.(1)
The good news is that we know what works to address this issue. Across the Tri-County area, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services provide sexual violence prevention education to nearly 10,000 students per year. For the youngest grades, the programming is geared toward supporting children’s sense of body ownership, and giving them the skills to recognize and respond to confusing or potentially dangerous situations. Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services educators base this programming on nationally-recognized best practices regarding language and delivery. Personal body safety education has been demonstrated to impart important concepts about body awareness to children, and those who participate in such education demonstrate protective behaviors significantly more often than children who don’t have such programming.(2)
In addition to educational sessions, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services is dedicated to engaging with partners across the Tri-County area to deliver the best possible prevention programming for children in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford Counties. Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services works with partners such as Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Council and community action programs, and in many cases team-teach. As part of MECASA, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services has collaborated for over 20 years with the Maine Department of Education’s Health Education Promotion Program. The Maine DOE’s Learning Results and Sexual Assault Key Concepts incorporate the knowledge and skills important to sexual abuse prevention. Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services uses MECASA’s statewide Prevention Education Curriculum Toolkit, which aligns with both of these resources.
Still, despite what we know about the skills and behaviors that may protect children who are being abused, the evidence is also clear that programming directed at children does not necessarily prevent victimization(3) – rather, it gives children the tools to respond if victimization occurs. Only through community and cultural change (which we engage in with higher grade levels and with college and professional audiences) can we turn the tide of victimization.
1. Fuentes-Perez, et al. (2013). Prevalence and correlates of child sexual abuse: A national study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 54(1): 16-27.
2. Finkelhor, D. (2009). The prevention of child sexual abuse. The Future of Children, 19(2).