Child sexual abuse is a chronic, under-reported tragedy in the United States. Studies cited by Prevent Child Abuse America estimate that at least 20% of American women and 5-16% of American men experienced some form of sexual abuse as children. Sexual abuse can occur in all populations, at all socioeconomic and educational levels and across all racial and cultural groups. The hopeful news is that child sexual abuse is preventable—if children, parents, and schools are armed with the knowledge and tools that help them prevent abuse.
To schedule a workshop or inquire about The NYSPCC’s Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Education offerings, please contact us HERE.
In addition, The NYSPCC is engaged in federally-funded research on the effectiveness of its child sexual abuse prevention workshop for children in grades K-3.
Launched in 2007, Safe Touches: Personal Safety Training for Children (Safe Touches) focuses on child sexual abuse prevention and promotes awareness for children in kindergarten through third grade and for their teachers. In the Safe Touches program, The NYSPCC’s specially-trained clinicians teach children about what parts of the body are private and then use colorful puppets in role-play scenarios to help children recognize the difference between safe and not-safe touches and identify who to tell if they have experienced a not-safe touch. In addition, the Safe Touches workshop provides a forum for much needed discussion about child sexual abuse during which children may make comments or disclosures that warrant further discussion with The NYSPCC’s trained clinicians and the school’s staff.
Children play an active role during the workshop by giving suggestions to the puppets on what they can do to keep their bodies safe, and who they can go to for help if they have been in a not-safe situation. Children are also encouraged to ask questions and voice concerns. The workshop emphasizes the important messages that if a child has been touched inappropriately, it is never the child’s fault, and for children to keep telling about not-safe touches they have received until they are believed. To reinforce the messages from the workshop, each child is given a copy of Keeping my Body Safe! or Your Body Belongs to You! activity and coloring books to be brought home and worked on with their parents. Workbooks are available in both English and Spanish.
The NYSPCC offers workshops for parents and caregivers on the topic of child sexual abuse. These workshops provide essential information to parents about child sexual abuse and how to prevent it. Parents armed with this information are better equipped to support their child’s learning about safety strategies and how to respond if their child reports receiving an unsafe touch.
In 2014, The NYSPCC concluded a two-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that rigorously evaluated The NYSPCC’s child sexual abuse prevention workshop, Safe Touches: Personal Safety Training for Children. This is one of the only such studies of its kind to use a randomized controlled trial design to examine the effectiveness of a school-based sexual abuse prevention program for children. The study tested the extent to which children gained and retained the knowledge and self-protective skills taught in the workshop. The study was also one of the first that has focused primarily on children of color from low-income communities, making it a significant contribution to the child protection field. A total of 492 children participated in the study, exceeding The NYSPCC’s target sample size of 320 participants by 54%, and bolstering the significance of the results. Study data revealed that children who participated in the Safe Touches workshop demonstrated statistically significant increases in knowledge of sexual abuse prevention concepts compared to their peers who had not yet participated in the workshop. The NYSPCC has presented these findings to more than 420 professionals at six conferences across the country. In addition, The NYSPCC published the outcomes of this work in the prestigious American Journal of Public Health, as well as in the APSAC Advisor, a quarterly news journal for professionals in the field of child abuse and neglect.
Safe Touches reached 5,730 children in schools throughout NYC
The NYSPCC evaluates Safe Touches by distributing anonymous surveys to teachers whose students attend the workshops. The surveys collected in the Bronx in 2018, reflected overwhelmingly positive feedback.