Should children be educated about child sexual abuse?

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Should children be educated about child sexual abuse?

Postby Tarantula » Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:23 pm

I am currently contacting multiple people from government, the NSPCC etc to get a definitive answer to the following question:

what is the current stance on educating children about CSA in schools? i.e. is there a statutory duty to educate or is it optional, or is it out of the question?

I've just found out that, as I suspected (I was at school not ages ago), there is no obligation to educate schoolchildren on the subject of CSA. So, why not? The NSPCC, legal writers and basically everyone I ask seems to think it would be a beneficial addition to the curriculum - perhaps for PSHE or Citizenship or whatever - provided that it was delivered in both a straight-up informative, but appropriate way i.e. no unneccessary subjecting of the pupils to explicit graphic....ness.

I would really like to get people's ideas on the subject, what would be the pros and cons? I can tell you what the pros would be as a CSA survivor myself. As for cons...

I suppose some parents wouldn't feel comfortable about their children being taught about such a sinister issue at such a young age. I almost understand, but then that understanding is drowned out by the truckload of overriding benefit. I read an opinion column on the BBC about teaching domestic violence in schools, and many people felt that this was somehow 'taking away their childhood', a stance which I was a bit disappointed with.

I'm not suggesting a whole GCSE course. What I'm suggesting is one, maybe two hour-long lessons in the year, say, to children of age 8+ (year 3+) delivered by way of a presentation, perhaps from an external source such as an NSPCC rep or someone from the local authority ('ooooh there's a police man in the class! How exciting!'), that essentially puts up a cartoonified image of the human body on a projector screen and says 'if an older person or grownup is touching you here, here or here, you should tell someone you trust' and then elaborates on how a victim may not even realise that they are a victim because they don't understand what's happening etc etc no one will blame you etc etc and then maybe a group work exercise involving pupils writing a list of how they might feel if this was happening to them. That's it. No, or as little, gory details as possible, but still delivering a message. The message interpreted by non-abused children would be: 'I've never heard of anything like that before. That's icky and weird. Oh well, there was a policeman in class! I want to be a policeman.' and the message to ABUSE victims, sitting through such a class, would hopefully be interpreted as 'I'm scared. Daddy/Mummy/Uncle/older cousin does that to me sometimes. Maybe I should tell the teacher. The policeman said it would be okay and they'd believe me.'

... I strongly believe that education is the way forward for raising awareness from a young age. I can tell you, that if I had had that sort of lesson, it would've blown my world open. I would've probably told my teacher, and the abuse would've stopped then. What actually happened was, I was abused throughout my schooling, was so brainwashed into how badly it was my fault that I would sit in the room with my abuser watching telly when an NSPCC ad would come on, and I wouldn't even flinch! I didn't even realise I was being abused when I was younger, I thought those ads applied to somebody else. So clearly, they were not good enough. Not pressing enough. Not balls-on-the-line enough about the issue. After all, one wouldn't want to make parents feel uncomfortable, would one.

What are your views?
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Re: Should children be educated about child sexual abuse?

Postby Bel Bel » Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:04 pm

I am in agreement.
So taking away potentially their whole life because of abuse is better than educating them to protect themselves
It's part of life and it can't be avoided so it should be dealt with the same way we warn our kids not to take sweets from strangers or cross the road without looking. These all have potential gruesome endings.
However I too suffered a form of abuse, milder than yourself, so maybe we are both skewed in our thinking but for me if it would save a few dozen children from it then it would be worth it let alone potentially hundreds of people.
We all have to learn that santa doesn't exist and the tooth fairies. So we get let down in that sense and have our childhoods spoilt.
As you say age appropriate information.
There will always be "do gooders" interfering but I wonder how many of them have had a bad experience.

I would also be for castration too but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Afterall you get a cancerous growth you cut it out so remove the diseased part that causes their desires, problem solved. :evil:
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Re: Should children be educated about child sexual abuse?

Postby Ticktock » Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:26 pm

I agree with this, but have to add some caveats.

Sexual abuse is committed against young children for the precise reason they don't have the emotional understanding to cope with that is going on and can be easily intimidated, with many abusers it is as much about power as sex. Unfortunately Bel Bel the main sexual organ responsible for this is between the ears.

With sex education (which I suspect this would fall under) in schools the current process is to inform parents, certainly at year 3 age, and then give them the option to opt out. I could well see an abuser rallying parents against corrupting 'our children' and ensuring their children don't have access to help.

There is also a bit of 'white knight' thinking involved, if someone had rode in and spotted the abuse then it would have stopped and everything would have been happily ever after. The current process is that social service would be called, an investigation would take place (which can be almost as traumatic as the abuse), and it may end up with it being both parents word against the child. The child would end up fostered and having the additional guilt of having destroyed their family. That is the worst bit of child sexual abuse, it never ends when the abuse stops as the only official way to save the child is to remove it from their parents, and our fostering/adoption service is overstretched and full of abused children who turn out to be broken adults.

Often the biggest problem is viewing school as the ideal location for this education, think about it, children have to sit in a classroom, listen quietly and obey all adults... It is a big stretch to say forget all that we want you to tell us if your mum/dad are bad. Working in a youth service which was more focused on teaching children to think for themselves, with all the consequences that brings, I have been told some horrible stories which have had terrible consequences for the children involved, I have 'saved' the children from abuse but would never be naive enough to think I have made their lives entirely better.

Changing location to an out of school location and focusing on those children who teachers are worried about (you almost always know when something is wrong at home), and teaching self reliance and independent thinking may save as many children while being completely innoculous to the unabused and the abuser, and a more subtle method of dealing with parents, for example in BC's situation remove the father, but could she have lived with her mother under sheltered/supervised conditions, it often turns out that the mother is as abused as the child and intimidated into silence, with help she could have become strong enough to protect her.

The worst thing about being a politician is that you are often approached by people telling you that something is wrong, change it, but how do you change it so the consequences aren't as dreadful? The Baby P case led to a lot of extra children being taken from their families but it didn't end the abuse because people can and do always make more children, and abuse can run in families so short of banning all the brother and sisters of an abuser to keep their kids then what do you do.

That is just my insight into the complexities still I think you should remember that many schools now have control over a large proportion of their curriculum, a pilot project in a local academy to prove some the concepts would strengthen your arguments immeasurably. BC did you ever think of going back to your old school and telling them what happened and seeing what the teachers said, from the viewpoint of the education of the pupils and teachers on what to spot you may be able to make a big difference...
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Re: Should children be educated about child sexual abuse?

Postby Tarantula » Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:03 am

Thank you both for your views.

I should probably point out that my aim wouldn't realistically be prevention. I don't expect for one moment that a one-hour class once a year is gonna honestly deter a parent from abusing their child, no matter how lucidly they pre-empted it being taught. No matter how much I could wave my arms in parents' faces saying 'BE AWARE that next week, your child is going to be taught specifically about sexual abuse and what to do if they're being victimised', I don't believe that abusers really THINK about the consequences of their actions prior to beginning abuse. I imagine it's more compulsive and in-the-moment, rather than a logical assessment of all the risks. Were it the latter, I don't think abusers would risk it in the first place, as it is now. Most people are very scared of the prospect of going to jail and therefore little would be worth the risk. I therefore believe that abuse is more of an impulsive, come-what-may action, and besides, I don't think abusers even identify themselves as abusers. Mine didn't.

My aim would be, as you say tick tock, to ride in and identify the present victims so as to encourage an earlier disclosure. I know that the following process can be almost as traumatic as the abuse itself - and is never pleasant - but to my mind, nothing could be worse than the continuation of the abuse, surely. 'Almost as traumatic', but not AS traumatic, with the possibility that the child WILL be believed by their family and even go on to secure a conviction. That's about as close to a 'happy ever after' scenario that a victim can hope for. What's less is, as you say, to NOT be believed, to be up against one's entire family so much so that they're removed from everything they've ever known, and then much depends on the foster parents and how capable they are of raising the child in a way that alleviates the guilt as much as possible. But still, no more abuse. No more intrusions in the night. No more acceleration of the inherent guilt and shame. What happens post-disclosure could be described as anything from a massive turnaround in the child's life to an out-of-the-frying-pan situation, almost as traumatic. Almost. I can't see how staying in an abusive situation could be better than leaving it, regardless of how anally the situation is handed by the authorities/care services. I therefore disagree that the splitting of a family is the worst bit of sexual abuse. The ABUSE is the worst bit of sexual abuse.

So you can see that I'm not supposing that mere education would make every abuse victim's life 'entirely better' through disclosure. There's a chance that could be the case of course, but generally speaking, the abuse itself is devastating, the immediate aftermath almost equally so, and it takes years to reach any sort of clear seas. Better to start that journey younger rather than older.

I see what you're getting at about the dynamics of a school environment not being conducive to an education about sexual abuse, but would hope that the child's own instincts would help them make the distinction, as they are taught to do with the not-talking-to-strangers example. The resistance they would typically feel to being told, by a school teacher for example, to stop talking in class would not be comparable to the feelings they experience when daddy comes into the room at night.

An out of school location seems to cover all the odds, but then a child doesn't have to go there, and a parent is under no legal obligation to allow it - unlike with school. School offers so many obvious advantages for this type of education.

As for making more children... I shudder to think that any abuser has ever thought 'dang, that one got away... best get in the wife and make another one so that I can abuse them instead'... if anything, wouldn't the removal of one child scare an abuser into leaving the others alone? And if not, then well, wash rinse and repeat as applicabl to each child who discloses. If that means an entire football team of siblings get removed than so be it. My underlying conviction is that nothing can be worse than staying in an abusive situation.

I am planning to put a presentation together of literally how I would teach such a class, and delivering it to my local headmaster's meeting, or even trialling it on the kids if any school allows me to. My old school would be a good place to start, as the fact that I went there is a stronger link and I'm therefore more likely to get some joy...

I'm aware that there is some autonomy concerning what schools teach outside of the curriculum, but that doesn't sound good enough to me. I don't want it to be optional, I want it to be obligatory, with statutory footing to boot. No 'parents can opt their kids out if they want to', none of that. More like, your kid IS going to be educated about sexual abuse so that they can better protect themselves, and so long as you are not molesting your kids, you have nothing to worry about and no need whatsoever to resist.
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Re: Should children be educated about child sexual abuse?

Postby Ticktock » Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:50 am

Having talked to a few people with another one of my on-line hats, this project might be something that interests you.

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/get-involved/vo ... 73026.html
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