The importance of prevention

By Bailey Martineau

The Importance of Prevention:

Welcome to prevention education. We’re so glad that you have found us! You may be wondering what ‘prevention education’ is and why is it important for you, your children, grandchildren, and all school children.  Well, you have come to the right place!  This blog will explore the importance of prevention, why we provide prevention education, and why it is needed in our schools.

If you are new to Central Alberta, CASASC has a dedicated education team that specializes in the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. You can find more information about our programs and/or book us to deliver our program to your organization at education@casasc.ca.

Now, on to explaining the importance of prevention.

As a former preschool teacher, I witnessed firsthand the impact of sexual abuse on a child. Children under the age of five do not have the developmental ability to discern when someone’s motives are insincere or when someone is lying.  So, if they feel uncomfortable with something that has happened to them, they typically will tell someone they trust.  These ‘disclosures may occur during, dramatic play, reading a book, or even during one-on-one time. Students usually came to me during free play time, when colouring, or just quietly reading books – and they would share what happened that is making them uncomfortable.  Oftentimes, nothing needed to be said as it was clear in the child’s demeanor when dropped off at school by their guardian.  As adults who know and understand the signs of abuse, we need to be the voice and advocate for children who don’t understand what is happening to them.

If you are fortunate enough to have a child trust you enough that they come to you and tell you something that happened to them, you should feel honoured; this means that you are a safe person for that child. No need to feel scared. That child chose you to help them! Having an understanding of prevention is so important so you know how you can do to help that child.

The signs of childhood sexual abuse are not always obvious and as a result, it is important to learn the signs and symptoms so that early action can be taken, thereby ending or preventing abuse.

Prevention is important to everyone – and the best prevention is education.  We make sure everyone is aware of the elements of body safety. Children need to understand what consent is and how to impose body boundaries that they are comfortable with.  Prevention education empowers everyone in positive ways.

Have you ever wondered about the steps involved in prevention education?  Following are some steps that we, as a community, can take.

  1. Act: Do something. As a community, we need to act. If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prevent childhood sexual abuse. We must counteract it with kindness, grace, practice, and most importantly, believing the child/youth if they come to talk to you about it. If you know – or even suspect – childhood sexual abuse, it’s your responsibility (and the law!) to report it immediately.
  2. Join Forces: Reach out to non-profits in your community who talk and teach about sexual abuse – churches, schools, libraries, and other civic groups – to get involved in prevention programs.
  3. Support the victim: Believe the victim. Report when necessary. Offer support, empathy, and kindness. Let them know they are not alone. Help to find resources to start the healing journey.
  4. Educate Yourself: Programs like ours help children, youth and adults understand body boundaries, consent, relationships, and safe or unsafe adults. We give them a voice and the tools to prevent sexual abuse.
  5. Speak up: Let’s give childhood sexual abuse a voice. Let’s stop it in its tracks. The more we talk about it, learn, and educate, the less likely abuse can happen. Prevention begins with each one of us!

Prevention strategies aim to stop violence before it occurs by addressing the way individuals, relationships, community, and societal factors impact interpersonal violence.

Given my past experiences, I am impassioned to ensure everyone is educated on the prevention of sexual abuse.  My hope is that, as a community, we can use these steps to recognize, act, and prevent sexual abuse in our community.

Why Prevention Education?

This is where we take social action through prevention education:

Prevention education builds confidence, critical thinking skills and helps prepare children and youth for potentially dangerous situations in the real world. We should teach children and youth assertive skills so they can respond appropriately and say “no!” when necessary.

Prevention education also requires that children and youth know what a safe adult is and where a safe adult is allowed within their body boundary.

Here is a question for you what makes a safe adult? How do children and youth know that a specific adult is safe to be around?  Are you, as the adult, able to respond to this question? Do you think your child or grandchild understands this? If not, it’s time to have a conversation about safe adults.

Another question to think about: Do you know what a body boundary is?

In our prevention program, we discuss and have related activities on body boundaries. What touches are allowed in each bubble? Our No Secrets program teaches that “no one should look at, no one should touch, and no one should take pictures of our private parts.” If this rule is broken, our prevention education teaches the skills of “no, go, tell” – say “no” loudly, go somewhere safe and tell a safe adult what happened.

We also teach that a doctor should be one of the only people that can look at or touch us in order to keep us healthy – but only with our permission and consent.

Research shows that elementary age children are not developmentally able to lie, so it’s important that if a child says someone has touched them inappropriately, adults believe them.

Our program also teaches the importance of learning the correct body part names as when children and youth are familiar and comfortable with body part names, they can tell a safe adult what happened and there is no misunderstanding.

We want children and youth to feel empowered when it comes to their bodies and boundaries. Our program, like any other prevention education program on sexual abuse, is not sex education; rather it is a prevention program to ensure children and youth are equipped with tools to stop an act before it happens and to educate about right from wrong and what is (or is not) appropriate.

Why is Prevention Education Needed in Schools?

Just like learning how to do a fire drill or a lock down, children need to learn and understand how to keep their bodies safe. Teaching these concepts in an age-appropriate classroom setting with peers fosters autonomy and self-esteem.

Bailey Martineau is a prevention educator at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Ask an Expert Clinical Series – Parenting Conversation 2022

 

Ask an Expert – Parenting + Sexualized Behaviour Conversations With Our Clinical Expert

Join us for an informal 60 minute virtual session with our Child Therapist. Learn information related to parenting and supporting children and youth who display concerning sexualized behaviours.

Or maybe you want to join us to discuss a situation or behaviour your child is engaging in and get some advice on what is developmentally appropriate, how to support and respond.

Our expert will give a short overview of the Sexualized Behaviour Support Program (SBSP) and share about frequent concerns and conversations. This will leave plenty of time for participants to join in a discussion and to both privately and publicly ask questions.

Use this opportunity to connect with our therapist for those unique and one-off questions that you may have but don’t want to go through our client wait list process to speak with a counsellor.

Dates:

Monday, September 26 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. MST

Friday, October 28 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. MST

 

Register via Eventbrite here for all sessions

The power of words in teen dating relationships

By Kailee Mears

With Valentine’s Day and Family Day behind us, we can reflect on how these holidays bring people closer together. Family Day is a day off for many to spend time with family. Valentine’s Day has grown into a day to celebrate love in many forms, including couples or friends.

What you may not have known is that the month of February was also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). TDVAM is meant to raise awareness of the different types of violence teenagers can experience within a dating relationship.

Statistics show that young people between the ages of 15 to 24 have the highest risk of experiencing dating violence.

Dating violence can involve physical abuse like hitting, slapping, pushing or kicking. It can also involve a type of violence called emotional violence.

Emotional violence is the use of words to hurt, intimidate, embarrass or harass a person. It is the most common type of dating violence and often comes before other types of violence. One study suggested that up to 62 per cent of 12 to 18 year old’s have experienced emotional violence while in a dating relationship.

While it may be easy to see the results of physical violence through injuries, it can be difficult to see how words can affect a person emotionally.

As youth grow up, one can expect to hear some version of “don’t let words get the better of you.” While it is important for youth to learn to become resilient, it is important for both youth and adults to recognize when a person’s words are truly harmful, especially when it comes to dating relationships.

One of the first steps you can take is to pay attention when someone is speaking and how their tone makes the youth and those around them, including yourself, feel.

Hearing something like “Why don’t you just shut up?” can make a person feel very small, scared and uncomfortable. Hearing “Oh come on. Everyone is doing it. Just try it once,” could have the effect like they are being pressured into doing something they don’t want to do.

Or even “Why didn’t you text me back? I texted you a lot. What were you doing? Who were you with?” can feel like being controlled by the person saying it – that we cannot do anything without replying to a text message right away or face some sort of punishment. Being independent in a relationship is important. We need to have time to ourselves and with others to maintain our relationships.

If you overhear something that makes you feel off or uncomfortable from the dating partner of a friend, co-worker or youth in your family, it is important to check in with that person. By asking that friend/co-worker/youth how they felt during that conversation and pointing out how you felt may make the youth more aware of how they may have been treated with disrespect. It could give the person a chance to reach out for help if they are uncomfortable with how their partner is speaking to them.

Words can be powerful. It is important for youth and adults to know that they deserve to be spoken to with respect, love and dignity, especially when it comes from a dating partner. If something does not sound right or makes someone feel scared, it is important to say something and seek help.

Kailee Mears is a prevention educator at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate on March 1, 2022

 

POSTPONED – Ask an Expert Clinical Series – Parenting Conversation

Ask an Expert – Parenting + Sexualized Behaviour Conversations With Our Clinical Expert

Join us for an informal 60 minute virtual session with our Child Therapist. Learn information related to parenting and supporting children and youth who display concerning sexualized behaviours.

Or maybe you want to join us to discuss a situation or behaviour your child is engaging in and get some advice on what is developmentally appropriate, how to support and respond.

Our expert will give a short overview of the Sexualized Behaviour Support Program (SBSP) and share about frequent concerns and conversations. This will leave plenty of time for participants to join in a discussion and to both privately and publicly ask questions.

Dates:

POSTPONED – October 26 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. via Zoom

New date: November 9th from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. via Zoom

 

Register via Eventbrite here for the Nov. 9 session

Ask an Expert Clinical Series – Sexualized Behaviour FAQs

Ask an Expert – Sexualized Behaviour FAQs and conversation with our clinical expert

Join one of our child therapists for a virtual conversation about sexualized behaviour. Bring your questions and concerns or come to just to hear more.

Curious about the sexualized behaviour your child/youth may be displaying? CASASC offers a specialized counselling program that helps children and youth up to age 18 who are presenting with individual sexual behaviour problems or concerns.

In this session, our child therapist will give a short 15 minute overview of the sexualized behaviour program, frequent concerns and conversations. We will then leave 45 minutes of time for participants to ask questions and join in discussion with our clinical expert.

Date:

August 23 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. via Zoom

Register via Eventbrite here

iRespect Myself, iNourish My Body – Recipe 2

 

The second recipe in our weekly self-care, iRespect Myself, iNourish My Body recipe series is brought to you by Ressie, CASASC’s resident iRespect unicorn. Ressie shares with us a great kids recipe for delicious quesadillas (what kid doesn’t love quesadillas?!).

Taking time to slow down and cook with our loved ones is another way to practice self-care, but also, a great way to spend time with one another and promote feelings of love and togetherness.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your adult helper and let’s get cooking.

 

This post is part of CASASC’s Respect Month – a month-long awareness campaign that acknowledges Sexual Violence Awareness Month through the concept of respect.

iRespect Myself, iNourish My Body – Recipe 1

The first recipe in our weekly self-care: iRespect Myself, iNourish My Body recipe series is a super easy, “pack now, eat later” Greek chicken bowl that is perfect for those busy weekday lunch ideas.

A great balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats; this Greek Chicken Bowl has everything you need to give your body back everything it requires to help you power through to the end of your workday.

Let’s all take a little bit of time this month to slow down, practice self-love and gratitude, and give back to our bodies.

 

This post is part of CASASC’s Respect Month – a month-long awareness campaign that acknowledges Sexual Violence Awareness Month through the concept of respect.

Five tips to keep your children safe online

The following has some tips for your child’s online safety.

Protect Kids Online is an informative, one-stop website that provides free cyber-safety, education and strategies to parents of kids, teens and preteens. This website offers information about the ever-changing online interests of young people and the potential risks they face. This website effectively categorizes information by content and age.

If you suspect your child could be a victim of luring, sextortion or grooming, you should immediately report your concern to the RCMP and to Cybertip – Canada’s national tip line for reporting child sexual abuse and exploitation on the Internet.

Although located in the United States, The Child Rescue Coalition is an excellent resource that highlights the challenges of keeping children safe on the internet and other digital technologies. This organization provides current and timely information on their Instagram blog posts.

The following are five tips to help keep children and teens safe online:

1)Communicate with your children regularly:

Open, frequent and ongoing communication with your child is essential and should be a top priority regardless of how busy you are. Open communication ensures your children will trust you enough to tell you what’s going in their world.

2) Screen caregivers thoroughly:

Make sure you know who is taking care of your children.

3)Talk about body parts accurately:

This may be uncomfortable, but it is one of the most important tips. When children know the proper names of their body parts, they can properly express to you what has happened to them and you will be clear on what they are talking about. This should be done as soon as children are old enough to understand (i.e. by pre-school age).

4)Encourage boundaries:

Teach your children that their bodies belong to them and it’s okay for them to have boundaries and have their voices heard. If, for example, they do not want to hug or kiss someone, they do not have to.

5)Teach the difference between safe and unsafe secrets and touches:

This is so important that we named our program No Secrets. Ensure children know the difference between a safe secret (like keeping a birthday celebration a secret) and an unsafe secret (like the bus driver asking you to stay behind to go to the candy store and to not telling your parents)and a safe touch (like a touch that make you feel happy, loved and proud. This could be a high five) and an unsafe touch (i.e. a touch that makes you feel uncomfortable, upset and/or disgusting. This could be someone touching a part of your body you ae not comfortable with). Reinforce these regularly with different examples, so your children are able to determine what is safe or unsafe.

If you follow these tips and have regular conversations with your children about body safety and how their body belongs only to them, the risk of sexual abuse is greatly reduced.

Develop your child’s media literacy skills – Internet + Media Mini-edu Session

Today’s lesson, and the final for the Internet + Media series, focuses on media literacy.

Media literacy means being able to see, review and think about the media a person is watching or reading – to understand what the message of the media is. Media is everywhere: TV shows, advertisements, movies, music, video games, magazines and newspapers. Having strong media literacy skills as a child helps to develop the ability to think about what the main message a piece of media is and how the message relates to the child’s world and values.

Consider the following tips to help your child develop media literacy skills:

1)Watch with them

Have a family movie night or tune in with your kids for their Saturday morning cartoons. By watching together, you can see exactly what messages your child is seeing. You can ask questions about what they think they are seeing and how they believe it fits with your family’s values.

2)Let them be the DJ

Let your child pick the radio station or what songs play in the car ride to school. Not only will it give you more of an idea of what kind of music they like, but you can ask questions about what they are listening to. Ask them what the lyrics mean and what the singer is expressing in their song. What does your child like about the song?

3)Encourage them to create their own media

When children are given a chance to create media, they can think more about what goes into the message they are trying to send out. You can guide them to make a magazine, film a short video or create a family TikTok video.

4)Have a conversation about representation

An important skill in media literacy is recognizing who is and who is not represented in a piece of media and how people are portrayed. By asking these questions to your child and having a conversation about representation, it allows for honest conversations about values, diversity and inclusion.

Developing media literacy skills can help strengthen a child’s sense of identity and belonging and have a greater respect for others.

For more information about media literacy, visit mediasmarts.ca for more parent tips about media literacy.

 

 

Prevent cyberbullying through respect – Internet + Media Mini-edu Session

Cyberbullying is a disrespectful act that does not consider another person’s feelings of safety and belonging. Cyberbullying can involve spreading rumors online, posting embarrassing photos and videos without consent, calling people names and creating separate accounts to bully someone. Cyberbullying can happen between people of the same gender, age or popularity. It can happen to anyone at any time.

Prevent Cyberbullying:

When trying to prevent cyberbullying from happening in your home or in your classroom, it is important to consider the following:

1)Teach respect
When respect is the norm for interacting with others online, cyberbullying is less likely to happen or to be tolerated. When children are taught to think before they post, share or comment on something online, harmful words or actions are less likely to happen. Students whose parents set up boundaries and instill values of being respectful online were more than thirty three percent less likely to be rude or mean to others online (1).

2)Teach what is and is not a joke
Bullying, along with cyberbullying, sometimes involves trying to play off harsh words or actions as “it’s a joke.” Joking and teasing can strengthen the relationship between two people (i.e., classmates and friends) and can create positive relationships and humour (2), however, teasing can quickly become bullying. If the other friend or peer is not getting the joke, or says they want the joking to stop, it is important for others to listen and respect their wishes and boundaries.

Help your youth respond to cyberbullying

If your youth comes to you to say they are experiencing cyberbullying or online harassment, it is important to consider the following:

1)Respond Appropriately
Try not to over or underreact to a youth being cyberbullied. Overreacting can harm a youth socially and does not teach them appropriate ways to deal with cyberbullying. Underreacting can lead to the child not feeling supported and could lead to more bullying. Even though cyberbullying happens online, it has real effects on an individual’s emotional, social, academic and physical well-being.

2)Teach to not Fight Back and instead Gather Evidence, Report, Delete or Block. 

When your child is dealing with cyberbullying from strangers or peers, it is important as the adult or parent to follow the steps listed:

  • Encourage your child to not fight back against any harassment or bullying. Not fighting back will make the bullying more likely to stop.
  • When gathering evidence, it is important to record any identifying information (names, usernames, location, contact information, time, date, bullying behaviour, etc.).
  • Next, report the harassment or bullying to the social media or website’s help centre, to the school, or to the police as needed.
  • Finally, delete or block the person as needed (especially if they are a stranger online). Your child or the website’s help centre can show you the steps to do this.

Everyone deserves respect both online and offline. As children explore online for creative, social, and learning reasons, it is important to be aware that cyberbullying can happen, but it can be prevented and dealt with.

For any further questions about cyberbullying, or internet safety, please reach out to the CASASC Edu Team at education@casasc.ca or check out more tips at MediaSmarts.ca.

 

 

 

[1] https://mediasmarts.ca/sites/default/files/guides/ywca-guide-for-trusted-adults.pdf

[2] Lee, A. M. (2020, October 22). The Difference Between Teasing and Bullying. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/common-challenges/bullying/difference-between-teasing-and-bullying