SAFE ENVIRONMENT CURRICULUM
In recent years our society has begun to understand the pervasiveness of child sexual abuse. It is estimated that one female child out of every three will be sexually abused before she is 18 years old.1 In addition, one male child out of 7 will be sexually abused as well.2 Child sexual abuse is not confined to any racial, ethnic, or socio economic class. Children across the world experience the nightmare of abuse. Only now are we beginning to research the effects of abuse on children. The abuse experienced by children, especially young children, appears to explode into countless emotional problems that affect everyone in our society.
As our awareness of the effects of child sexual abuse grows, frustrated parents and educators look for ways to prevent the abuse from happening. In order to teach prevention techniques, we are forced to examine our social, cultural, and religious attitudes about appropriate roles, family life, personal safety and violence. The continuing patterns of abuse can be broken with the use of preventive education and with appropriate counseling interventions with children who have already been victimized.
Education is an important aspect of effectively preventing the sexual abuse of children. Education accomplishes the following:
Prevention education focuses on the dissemination of factual information about child sexual abuse and the development of skills to enable a child to avoid or to resist an approach by an offender. A necessary ingredient for education is information about what to do and whom to contact for help if assaulted. Beyond these obvious goals, prevention education within a religious context offers the Church an opportunity to teach children about God’s care for children, about justice and forgiveness, and about the Church’s care for survivors.
Even though many public schools are introducing prevention curricula, it is essential that the Church be involved in the prevention of sexual abuse. Children who have been taught child abuse prevention in the context of religious education report that having this information in this setting allows them to discuss values, the Church’s teachings, and Scripture as it relates to this topic. Teaching prevention also allows the Church to offer children images of hope, comfort, and healing that will be very useful to them in the future no matter what their experience. Every avenue of communication must be used to spread the Gospel message of God’s love and care for children.
1 Diana E.H. Russell, Rape in Marriage (New York: Macmillan, 1983)
2 David Finkelhor, Child Sexual Abuse: New Theory and Research (New York
3 Marie Fortune, Sexual Abuse Prevention: A Study for Teenagers (New York: United Press Church Press, 1984), 9.
Kathryn Goering Reid, Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: A Curriculum for Children Ages Five Through Eight, (Cleveland: United Church Press, 1994). Copyright 1994 Kathryn Goering Reid. (Used by Permission)
All "Circle of Grace" information is reprinted with permission from Archdiocese of Omaha.