The Most Vulnerable Among Us
Every child has certain risk and protective factors they live alongside. Both play a role in the epidemic that is child sexual abuse. Protective factors lessen the chances of victimization and create an environment of openness. With sexual abuse thriving in darkness, it only makes sense to educate and talk about it. An educated child is more likely to speak up and speak up quickly.
Every child faces risk by the nature of being children. Think about it: They depend on us adults to bathe, feed, and clothe them. They need their emotional cup filled and the opportunities to express themselves without fear of reprimand. With social-emotional learning now on the radar, more children than ever are becoming empowered to keep their bodies safe.
But what about the most vulnerable of our children?
Children with special needs are 2.9 times more likely to be sexually abused compared to children without (Source 1). When you factor in the most severe of special needs, children are at a 4.6 times greater risk of experiencing sexual violence (Source 1).
Though all children are in need of protection when it comes to sexual abuse, children with special needs face hurdles that children without do not. A lack of appropriate curriculum regarding safe and unsafe touch, ableism, and denial of basic relationship and sexual health education can all contribute to victimization.
All children have the right to know that they own their body. That no one, not even someone who they depend on for care, is allowed to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. In collaboration with social worker Natalie Shamie and special education teacher Marcy Rossi, Childhood Victories has created “Be Seen and Heard© For Special Needs”.
Our multi-module program is bringing this critical information to children’s classrooms across the country. Using simplified and adapted hands-on materials, along with communication supports, students with special needs are learning about the dangers of abuse in a safe environment. With songs, stories, repetition, and familiar language, we are helping students differentiate between safe and unsafe touch.
We at Childhood Victories endeavor to be more than a program for one group of children. No two children are alike; we need educational programs that are a reflection of our audiences. We will keep working and demanding representation for all students. We want to make sure every child has a voice…especially the most vulnerable among us.
Lund, Emily M., and Vaughn-Jensen, J. (2012). “Victimisation of Children with Disabilities.” The Lancet, Volume 380 (Issue 9845), 867-869.