By: Ashlee Gilot, Prevention Educator, Stepping Stones, YWCA Mclean County
Does your child know what a sexual assault is? Or how it can occur? How about understanding the difference between a safe touch and a bad touch? If you answered “no” to these questions, you’re probably thinking, why would a young child need to know about such sinister topics? Sexual assault is taboo and shouldn’t be introduced to a young child, right? INCORRECT. In fact, teaching children early about these taboo topics will help them in later life.
Most parents are comfortable teaching their children about the practical rule of “stranger = danger.” Although this is without a doubt important, parents can sometimes negate how important it is to teach their children that even sometimes the people they know can hurt them too. In fact, 1 out of every 71 children in McLean County will likely suffer from a sexual assault, abuse or neglect from someone they know. This is a daunting fact, but what is even more disheartening is the thought of shielding the truth from children in order to protect their innocence. The only way to protect children is to educate them early.
Although no one can end sexual assault but the perpetrator, educating children about these boundaries strikes a sense of hope that through education, there can be an end to the secrets, guilt and shame that individuals can sometimes experience. The more society holds these conversations and exposes the secrets that are taboo to talk about, the more society can fight against the issue, and look towards a brighter future.
YWCA McLean County’s sexual assault program, Stepping Stones, works very hard to create a comfortable and safe environment for elementary and middle school aged students to discuss these very important issues. Stepping Stones employs Prevention Educators who are able to meet with students during the school day to talk to young children about safety related topics including fire safety, gun safety, what to do if you get lost, or even what to do if someone touches their private body parts. YWCA’s Prevention Educators can make sure children understand that it is never their fault if the latter occurs, and can educate them on who to turn to if someone breaks these rules. Stepping Stones utilizes music, books, movement and even dance to get these important messages instilled in the minds of young children.
As identified, the need for prevention education is quickly escalating. One of the fastest growing populations of victims being served by the Stepping Stones program is youth aged 19 or younger. The number of requests from local schools to provide crisis intervention to students while they are at school has reached an all-time high. This indicates that a large number of youth are experiencing sexual violence at the hands of their peers, family, and people in their social networks. Education is the solution; begin to talk about these taboo topics today.
To learn more about youth prevention education, contact YWCA Mclean County at (309) 662-0461 ext. 249 or email Ashlee Gilot, Prevention Educator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit YWCA on the web at www.ywcacmclean.org to learn more about the work Stepping Stones is doing.