Sometimes, there are moments when I look back at my childhood and I can see exactly where a different choice would have changed things drastically. Typically, I'm looking at things I could have done differently. If I would have said this... if I would have spoken up then... but of course, as a child, I can't take responsibility for those things.
In case you aren't aware - I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
Last night, I went to a parent meeting for an upcoming program being presented in some of the grades in our elementary schools. It's presented by Chaucie's Place - Smart Steps Body Safety Program.
This is an advocacy group that goes into schools and teaches kids that their bodies are in their own control, how to say no, what private parts are.
They showed a video of a recorded presentation done a few years ago in a 4th grade class.
I watched it. And tears leaked from my eyes through most of it. Not sad tears, necessarily. Not "having a break down" tears.
But the message being given to kids is powerful and important. These are the private parts of your body, this is a good touch vs a bad touch, you are empowered to say NO, tell an adult and keep telling until someone listens, it's never your fault.
The presentation is very high energy and the kids are engaged from the start. The presenter was friendly and knew exactly how to handle the giggles when body parts were discussed.
And I watched. And I thought... I wonder if things would have been different if I'd heard this in Kindergarten? Maybe not. There was still a lot of fear and threats at that point. But the presentation to 2nd grade? Maybe. Or the presentation in 4th grade? Which includes an opportunity to privately express if someone has ever touched you? Yep. I think by 4th grade I would have said something if someone had directly asked me.
This program might have changed my life.
Can't say it would have been for the better. No way to know. My abuse ended around 5th grade when we moved to a new city, away from my abuser.
My past is what it is. Nothing can change that. But seeing that presentation and knowing the potential power, knowing what it could possibly do in a child's life...
It could have changed my life. And it could change a child's life now.
If you have kids and you haven't talked to them about this very difficult subject, please do. There is a great book by Gavin De Becker called "Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)." I highly recommend it. Teach your kids the correct names for their body parts. Teach them what private means. Teach them ownership of their private body parts and empower them to say no to any kind of touch involving their bodies (yes, this might mean not hugging a family member when we feel shy). Being touched on private parts without a good reason or because of a game... is not ok. And programs like Smart Steps Body Safety can be an important tool for kids - along with the teaching and guidance and support of their parents.