The message of Stand Strong • Stay Safe is simple:
- Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
- Know what is safe.
- Be assertive: you have the Power to Choose how to act.
- Tell a trusted adult, and keep telling until you get the help you need.
- Abuse is never a child’s fault.
It is up to adults to keep children safe from. Sadly, children must often handle unsafe situations on their own. Like a vaccine against disease, Stand Strong • Stay Safe prepares children to act as their own first line of defense against unsafe situations.
Stand Strong • Stay Safe teaches children about physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and bullying. They learn strategies to stand up for themselves and to contribute to the safety of others in their communities by avoiding secrets, standing up for victims of bullying, and treating others with kindness. The program prepares them to recognize abuse, set healthy boundaries, act assertively on behalf of themselves and others, and get help when they need it.
Stand Strong • Stay Safe is available in two editions, one for Early Childhood and one for Elementary – however, the Elementary program is differentiated into Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary. The Early Childhood edition is appropriate for Pre-K through 1st Grade, while the Elementary edition is for students in 2nd Grade through 3rd Grade (Lower Elementary) and 4th Grade through 5th Grade (Upper Elementary). The Early Childhood edition is available in Spanish, and the Elementary Spanish edition will launch soon.
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Why is personal safety education important? In order to prevent wounds inside and out, we must equip our children with knowledge and skills.
- 135,300 children in the United States were sexually abused in 2005-2006 (Sedlak et al, 2010); only 30% of these cases were reported to authorities (Finkelhor, Hammer & Sedlak, 2008).
- In Texas, Child Protective Services substantiated 5,928 cases of child sexual abuse in 2012 (USDHHS, 2013); based on the evidence that only 30% of cases are even reported, this suggests that at least 18,000 Texas children were sexually abused during that time.
- Over 1.25 million children in the United States were victims of child abuse and neglect in 2005-2006. Of these, over 700,000 were neglected, 323,000 were physically abused, and 148,500 children suffered emotional abuse (Sedlak et al., 2010).
- In 2016, there were over 55,000 reported victims and 9,070 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect in Houston.
Child abuse and neglect, as well as other forms of victimization, have significant health and mental health consequences for children and families. It has been well established in the research literature (Fang, Brown, Florence & Mercy, 2012) that lifelong consequences of childhood victimization include posttraumatic stress disorder, behavior problems in childhood and often persisting into adulthood, adult criminality, substance abuse problems, and reduced overall health throughout the lifespan. Researchers have found that adverse experiences such as emotional trauma associated with childhood victimization can affect physical health later in life, and increase risks for obesity, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, intimate partner violence, unintended pregnancies, and depression (Felitti et al, 1998).
In addition to the significant health and mental health costs, child abuse and neglect carries a significant economic burden that affects us all. Researchers estimate that the lifetime economic impact of child abuse and neglect cases occurring in 2008 will be, conservatively, $124 billion. In 2012 alone, the direct and indirect costs of responding to child abuse and neglect are estimated to be over $80 billion in taxpayer dollars (Gelles & Perlman, 2012). In other words, the United States pays $220 million per day to deal with the consequences of child abuse and neglect.
The cycle of abuse will continue from generation to generation until children and adolescents are taught how to stay safe, how to handle threatening situations, and how to get help. Stand Strong • Stay Safe is a primary prevention program; it seeks to reduce the likelihood of child maltreatment and victimization and improve the overall wellbeing of children.
Early Childhood – Prekindergarten through First Grade
Trained educators, counselors, and social workers present engaging, non-threatening content in English and Spanish to students in a variety of educational settings. The program uses active learning techniques such as group discussion and situational problem solving along with age-appropriate curricula, materials, and follow-up activities.
- The Power of Kind Words (Emotional Abuse)
- Inappropriate Touch (Sexual Abuse)
- Neglect and Physical Abuse
Second Grade through Fifth Grade
Trained counselors and other school personnel deliver five engaging 30-minute lessons to students in their classrooms. This curriculum is differentiated into a Lower Elementary Edition (2nd Grade-3rd Grade) and Upper Elementary Edition (4th Grade-5th Grade). Lessons include a comic, a script to guide discussion, and activities for interactive skills practice. The curriculum is packaged with a set of full-color posters, a PowerPoint presentation for each lesson, and a series of follow-up activities that may be photocopied and left with classroom teachers. Four superhero characters are featured in the comics that frame the lessons. The following skills are covered by Stand Strong • Stay Safe Elementary:
- emotional control
- setting, communicating, and respecting boundaries
- requesting, giving, and withdrawing consent
- recognizing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
- distinguishing between safe and unsafe situations
- getting help and avoiding secrets
- preventing bullying
- digital media safety
- Students learn to use assertiveness to solve problems.
- Students learn the importance of emotional control and techniques to stay in control.
- Students learn the warning signs of abuse and how to get help.
- Students learn that abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault
- Students engage parents by providing take-home materials for them to read
- Students and parents will gain knowledge that will make children safer by reducing the chances of being abused.
Stand Strong • Stay Safe is a research informed curriculum. At its core are the best practices for child sexual abuse prevention, bullying prevention, assertion theory, and resilience.
An evaluation of the pilot curriculum was conducted in Spring, 2017. Twelve trained counselors taught the curriculum to over 1,500 2nd through 5th grade students in three different school districts. Of these counselors, five were selected to participate in the evaluation. These counselors administered pretests and posttests to their students, completed detailed post-implementation questionnaires, and opened their classrooms to ChildBuilders staff for observation. Pretests and posttests consisted of 18 multiple choice questions to measure understanding in six categories: abuse, bullying, sexual abuse/grooming, emotional control, and boundaries/consent. Data from these instruments were matched and analyzed using a paired t-test. Post-implementation questionnaires were analyzed qualitatively to identify trends that could be used to guide the revision.
Results from the analysis of the pre/post tests shows that students scored better on measures of bullying, assertiveness, sexual abuse and grooming, emotional control, and boundaries and consent after receiving the curriculum. On the questions about abuse, students scored very high on the pretest, suggesting that this content was already familiar to students, many of whom had previously received Stand Strong • Stay Safe Early Childhood. The quantitative analysis of the pre/post tests was combined with detailed reports from ten of the twelve counselors who responded to the post-implementation questionnaires to guide a revision process that resulted in the launch of our Stand Strong • Stay Safe Elementary in early 2018.