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Six ‘Protect Yourself Rules’ That All Young Children Must Learn
posted by: Cindy Omlin | December 20, 2016, 12:20 AM   

Guest Post by Jon Conte, PhD., University of Washington, School of Social Work 

I’ve dedicated my career to studying child abuse and the traumatic, long-term effects it has on children’s development. Over the decades, two statistics have never strayed far from my thoughts: 

  • More than one in six children suffers from physical abuse.
  • One in 10 children will be sexually abused, often by someone they know and trust. 
Take a moment to reflect on just how pervasive abuse is. In your class of 20 students, three of them may have been physically abused and/or two may have been sexually abused. Yet, we spend very little time talking about this important topic and even less time helping children learn how to protect themselves.

As trusted adults whom students interact with daily, teachers are uniquely well-positioned to intervene. But where do you begin? How do you initiate a classroom conversation about what is a very challenging and highly sensitive subject? 

This is why I worked with the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation, started by the late Frank Sinatra and his wife Barbara,to create the free “Protect Yourself Rules” videos—a first-of-its-kind educational series. In collaboration with other nationally-recognized child advocates, therapists, and scholars, we created the animated videos to educate elementary school-aged children about what to do when confronted with an abusive situation. Each video emphasizes three simple rules: Shout. Run. Tell. The videos also reinforce lessons such as: 

1.      Tell a Grown Up.

2.      Safe Touch, Unsafe Touch.

3.      Stranger Safety.

4.      Doesn’t Matter Who It Is.

5.      Hitting is Wrong. 

Grabbing the attention of the so-called ‘digital generation’ is no easy task, so the Foundation enlisted an executive of Nickelodeon’sRugrats to engage children inside the classroom using non-threatening, animated characters similar to what they’re used to seeing outside the classroom on electronic devices, television and movie screens.  The engaging series aims to empower children to protect themselves by helping them recognize abuse and giving them simple, memorable rules to make sure the abuse stops (or, hopefully, never starts). 

Highly age-appropriate, several of the videos are geared toward young children—kindergarten through third grade—while others are directed at children in grades four through six. All of the videos and materials have been professionally vetted and have been uniformly well-received by teachers, administrators, and students in diverse communities across the country. 

Accompanying each video are companion materials to help teachers facilitate post-viewing classroom discussion, including lesson plans and a variety of age-appropriate collateral materials such as coloring pages, crosswords and situational activities based on the video lesson. We encourage you and your fellow teachers and school administrators to view and consider sharing these videos in your school’s classrooms to help arm students with practical tools to stay safe if confronted with an abusive situation.

Please visit www.fightchildabuse.org and download the video series and accompanying lessons. These materials are provided free of cost. Your students need this information and several of them—the faces behind the statistics—can’t wait. 

Jon R. Conte, PhD, is a professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work. He is a teacher and scholar specializing in mental health issues related to child abuse and trauma. Dr. Conte is the editor of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Trauma, Violence and Abuse: A Review Journal, and is the consulting editor for the Journal of Forensic Social Work. Dr. Conte served as a leading consultant on the development, scripting and review of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation ‘Protect Yourself Rules’ videos and materials.

Originally posted at AAE.

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