Why Every Year?
Every year our children review and relearn information from the previous year. Bus evacuations, fire drills, tornado and inclement weather drills, code red and lockdowns, and even stranger danger. All of this is taught and learned and relearned with one goal in mind: to keep children safe. When Erin’s Law was passed in 2013, it followed the same logical as every other safety lesson: With education and conversation, we can reduce a child’s risk of sexual abuse. With that being said, none of these safety drills are only covered once. Erin’s Law is built on 10 Key Components, with one requirement involving learning Erin’s Law every year.
Programs should be conducted at least annually, building on skills learned the previous year, and should be developmentally appropriate for each grade level.
Why is it so crucial for a child to continue to learn safe and unsafe touch if they learned it in Kindergarten? Here are 5 reasons why it is so imperative for schools and presenters to provide prevention education every year:
1. Abuse can occur after an initial program. Let’s say a student receives Erin’s Law at the beginning of a school year and the unthinkable happens afterwards; They are subjected to abuse. Even though they have learned about safe and unsafe touch, it is possible they compartmentalize what has happened and do not speak up. Receiving the curriculum throughout the year may empower them and trigger a disclosure.
2. It can take time for a child to make the connection. While a child may understand the difference between safe and unsafe touch after a curriculum is presented, they may not associate that with their own experiences. Providing information every year increases the likelihood that a child connects with the presentation, understand that unsafe secrets do not have to be kept, and breaks their silence.
3. Students mature and develop between years. That is why we have separate grades. Children need safety information tailored to their needs and experiences. You cannot take a Kindergarten level program and hope it is still impactful for the 8th graders who learned it 8 years before. You also cannot have a “one size fits all” program. What a student in high school is taught could not possibly be understood by a young child, nor would the language be appropriate! So education about abuse should not only be presented every year, it should match the audiences developmental level and understanding.
4. Delayed disclosures. It can take years for children, and even adult survivors of sexual abuse, to come to terms with what has happened to them…and even longer for them to find their voice. Delaying a disclosure due to fear, shame, guilt, and embarrassment is all too common. When a child is hearing that abuse was never their fault year after year, it can empower them to choose a trusted hero and speak up. It may take two, three, four, or even five years for a child to find the courage to tell.
5. We forget things. Just like in Math, students review what they we taught in the past and then build upon what they know. Reviewing gives all students the change to recall previous lessons and prepares them for new information. Review is only possible if they receive this education in the first place.
Without sexual abuse education every year, children are once again being left to fend for themselves. Abuse is intricate, confusing, and so often done by someone we know. As students get older they have the capacity to learn about things like grooming, threats, and being guilted into keeping unsafe secrets. If we skip lessons on this information, we end up skipping an opportunity to heal and empower children. Instead of just checking a box and saying “we completed Erin’s Law for the year” let’s provide children with true safety education each and every year.
FULL TRANSCRIPT (The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Hey, it’s Victor, welcome to another Be Seen and Heard© Journey. Thank you for being here with me today. The question I get frequently is, why every year? Why have sexual abuse awareness and prevention education every single year? Well, there are a couple of reasons that I want to share. First of all, it’s not just about empowering kids to privately raise their hand if they are connecting an abusive situation. It’s also about preventing this from happening. I am a firm believer that if kids get this information at an early age, specifically around kindergarten, they will learn the strategies that simply say to themselves, if anyone gets too close to me, I have the right to say, No, I don’t feel comfortable. And I really believe if I would have received this as a little child, I never would have been abused on that day. So number one, it’s to prevent this from happening. It’s to prevent sexual abuse from ever being a part of someone’s life.
Another reason that this education really is so important and why it should be part of a curriculum at a school every single year is to empower kids to privately raise that hand. But I also get the question is, well, if they see it and if they’re connecting to it, why aren’t they just coming forward right away? Well, here’s my experience. I was at a school recently and I had been at that school for four years in a row and on that specific day I said something that a student connected with. Now, the way I present my curriculum is that the material changes every single year so that they’re learning something new. We’re reviewing and then they’re learning something new. Well, when that child disclosed and was in the counseling office, the counselor said, you know, I’m curious, you’ve seen Victor’s presentation now for four years, why are you coming forward today?
And she simply said, he said something today that really connected with me and it made me realize that it was time for me to have a voice.
And that’s why we do this every year. There is a saying that says, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. It may take one year, two years, three years, five years. It takes some people 15 years to finally have the courage to come forward. You just never know and that’s why it’s important. Again, a student doesn’t go to school and learn math and science in one day. They have to learn it on a regular basis. So once a year, learning this important message and the tools to keep children safe is my number one goal in life. So with that being said, I want to thank you so much for listening to this podcast or watching this video. Please share this with your family and friends and remember, every child deserves to Be Seen and Heard©. Thank you.