Common Questions

Kidpower’s Approach to Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs

Do you share tips with parents and teachers on how to report child abuse?

Yes. Kidpower teaches advocacy skills and other skills for taking charge of safety on behalf of yourself and on behalf of loved ones in all kinds of safety situations, including – but not limited to – addressing child sexual abuse. We provide parents, teachers, and other caring adults with tools that are highly recommended by mental health experts, public safety officers, and educators for explaining safety rules about private areas in ways that have proven to be clear for children of all ages without putting images in children’s minds that might be emotionally unsafe.

As skills teachers, we are not counselors or therapists, nor do we provide legal advice. Rather, we teach effective persistence, advocacy, and help-seeking skills in our workshops. In addition, Kidpower is a community resource accessible to all adults; they are not limited to accessing our resources only in the context of a workshop or of a service contract with a district or agency.

As a community resource, Kidpower offers guidance for parents, teachers, and other youth service professionals in assessing possible avenues for reporting, as many of the adults in our workshops work within structures that delineate pathways for reporting.

Developing the skills to assess those reporting pathways – and to assess the potential risk of moving outside those pathways – enables adults to act more effectively and powerfully as advocates for child safety in all situations, including those involving potential abuse.

Here are our recommendations for adults, which have been used by tens of thousands of parents, teachers, and other caring adults in different school districts and organizations:  What to Do if a Child Reports Possible Abuse, Bullying, Harassment, or Anything Else That Bothers Them.

We also provide ongoing education about child abuse prevention actions for parents, teachers, and other caring adults who sign up for our newsletters, visit our Online Resource Library, or email us.

Do you talk to kids about the steps to take if they feel they have been abused?

YES. In addition to talking, we practice with kids how to find someone to talk with and how to be persistent in getting help with safety problems from busy adults. We achieve this goal by teaching a combination of safety principles, and just as important, skills, for how to talk about problems with adults they trust.

Kidpower’s Founding ‘Put Safety First’ Principle is:

The safety and well being of a child are more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense – theirs, ours, or any other person’s.

Kidpower’s Four Core Boundary Principles are:

1. We each belong to ourselves. Our bodies, our time, our personal space, and our choices – are ours alone.

2. Some things are not a choice (health and safety).

3. Problems should not have to be a secret. Games, touch, and presents someone gives you should not have to be a secret.

4. Tell and keep telling – as many adults as you have to, as many times as you need to – until you get help and your problem stops.

Kidpower’s age-appropriate and ability-appropriate social safety skills include, among others: recognizing what is and is not safe; boundary-setting; moving away from trouble; projecting confidence; assertive advocacy; and persisting to get help effectively from adults when you have a safety problem of any kind, including possible abuse.

This two-pronged approach of teaching skills together with principles enables us to equip even very young children – as well as people of any age whose cognitive differences make them even more vulnerable to abuse than their peers – with skills they can use to get help if they feel unsafe in a broad range of situations, including in situations involving potential abuse, harassment, bullying, assault, and other violence, without burdening them with graphic details about abuse.

Focusing on the bad things that could happen does not make kids safer and can cause upset that can make it harder for kids to take action in the moment to be safe. This is why, in schools, teachers lead fire drill skills practices rather than talking about what happens to people in a fire; at swim facilities, instructors focus on swimming rather than on drowning; and in families, parents focus on the skills of fastening seat belts and looking both ways rather than on explaining what happens to people in car accidents. Similarly, Kidpower focuses on teaching skills that can help children be safer and get help from adults rather than on talking about the details of possible danger.

Is your staff trained and qualified on how to deal with kids who have been abused?

Yes. In order to receive and maintain certification, all Kidpower instructors must consistently demonstrate an understanding of the actions they are expected to take if they believe a child in one of their workshops might have been abused.

Kidpower instructors are also mandated reporters who are legally bound to report potential child abuse they believe is not being addressed. In addition, Kidpower service agreements (MOUs) with school districts commonly include clauses detailing boundaries and guidelines related to abuse prevention and reporting to ensure that Kidpower and that specific district agree on how we will, as partners, deal with situations in which anyone involved believes a child might have been abused.

Kidpower curriculum also includes the following core statement from The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults and the article: Sometimes the People Kids Love Have Problems: What Children DO and DO NOT Need to Know:

“Sometimes the people kids love have problems, and sometimes their problems are so big that they do things that hurt kids or make them uncomfortable. If this happens to you or a friend, it does NOT mean you did anything wrong. It means that the person who did this broke the safety rules and that you all need help. The best way to get help is to tell a grown-up you trust and to keep telling until that person or another person does something about it.  And it is NEVER too late to tell.”

All Kidpower instructors are trained to support students of any age in getting help with any kind of safety problem, or anything that bothers them, from the adults in their lives who are in a position to help and protect that student in an ongoing way.

At least one such adult is always present in a Kidpower workshop that serves minors, because, in Kidpower group workshops, a minimum of one of the group’s regular leaders – the lead teacher, counselor, coach etc. – is required to attend and participate fully in all activities. In workshops serving families, children must be accompanied by at least one of their own parents/guardians/care providers. Kidpower always enthusiastically welcomes parents and other support staff – such as the school aides, counselors, and administrators – to participate in workshops.

Even those Kidpower instructors who happen to also be counselors, therapists, law enforcement officers, doctors, or lawyers themselves do not take on the role of counselor, therapist, health care provider, or legal advisor in the context of their work as Kidpower instructors. Kidpower instructors are highly trained social safety skills teachers who work with groups for short periods to strengthen skills as well as communication between the children and the adults in their lives who can help them. Working within our clear boundaries with participating families and partner agencies is crucial for maintaining safety, respect, and healthy boundaries for all involved

Here are our recommendations for adults, which have been used by tens of thousands of parents, teachers, and other caring adults in different school districts and organizations:  What to Do if a Child Reports Possible Abuse, Bullying, Harassment, or Anything Else That Bothers Them.

Does Kidpower teach about preventing sexual harrassment?

Yes. Too often, young people use gender stereotypes and homophobia to make each other miserable.

To stop sexual harassment, adults must set a good example and speak up about behavior that happens in front of them. If we don’t say anything, we should not be surprised when young people believe that this behavior is acceptable to us.

Learn more about how Kidpower addresses sexual harassment in our Sexual Abuse Prevention and our Bullying Prevention programs, including stories from real teaching situations and our 8 actions adults can take to prevent and stop sexual harassment of young people in our article: Stopping Sexual Harassment in Schools.

Does Kidpower help adults help kids who have experienced abuse, bullying, or other violence?

Yes. As a nonprofit organization, Kidpower is a community based resource available to all adults committed to protecting children.

We serve not only schools and school districts but also all kinds of businesses, social service agencies, clubs, preschools, camps, and other groups as well as individual parents, counselors, teachers, coaches, therapists, and others seeking guidance in how to protect children in their care, including those who have or may have experienced abuse.

Providing guidance in advocacy and child protection skills to adults – including parents as well as professionals in education, health, and social services – for helping kids in their lives who have been abused is the most effective means through which Kidpower helps kids who have experienced abuse, bullying, violence, and other trauma.

We have a number of success stories about children who tell an adult they trust about abuse after a Kidpower workshop. Because adults are prepared to respond effectively, children are given support – and action was taken, resulting in the children being protected from further harm, and prosecution of the abusers by the criminal justice system.

We offer many paths to child protection advocacy knowledge and skills for adults, including private consultation, organizational staff training, our parent/child workshops, our annual 3-day Child Protection Institute, and Kidpower’s Comprehensive Program and Instructor Training; and of course, our many books, comics, curriculum lessons, and training manuals, including our #1 bestselling book in Abuse Prevention: Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.

"We're concerned about whether teachers find that learning the curriculum feels like yet another task for them. Do you ever get that sort of feedback?"

We have had great feedback from those adults that are implementing the Kidpower skills in their schools and organizations. We have heard the feedback that teachers are already have too much to cover and they don’t have room for one more thing. However, because we have so many options, adaptations and ways to practice these skills, including our Safety Minutes, which are 5 minute lessons, those same teachers soon learned that it was actually very easy to incorporate them into their daily activities. And because so many of the practices help with behavior issues and transition issues within the classroom, implementing these skills will actually save time and frustration overall.

For example, we had one elementary teacher who said she had no time for anything else in class. We asked her, “What is the most frustrating part of your day in the classroom?”  She answered, “Transitions from one activity to the next, such as reading to recess, PE or lunch.”

We asked if we could have 10 minutes to show how we would practice this with the class and how to use our safety signals in the transitions. By the end of the 10 minutes, transitions that used to take 5 or more minutes, we had down to 30 seconds. The kids had a blast practicing and trying to beat their time each practice. We taught them  Awareness power, Mouth Closed power, Hands Down power, and Line Up power, and used these as our cues to the students for what we wanted them to do. The teacher was so impressed she immediately started using these skills and reported a couple months later that she has so much more time now and is not drained at the end of the day from these transitions. In addition, the kids are doing so well with their skills that they are able to handle many peer interaction situations on their own in a positive way and not have to ask the teacher every single time someone does something they do not like. They only go to her when they have tried on their own and need help or if it is a safety problem. This would be one of the many things we would cover with teachers and staff at a professional training and would really help to get “buy in” from them on the program.

 

Parents’ and other Care Givers’ Questions about Sexual Abuse Prevention

Who or what kind of people do I need to watch out for?

Sexual predators look the same as anybody else.

Many pedophiles are respected members of their communities before they are caught and are in positions of trust and power because they are very charismatic, capable, and manipulative. According to studies done by the Department of Justice, sexual offenders can: be rich or poor; be men or women; be young or old; be married or single; have strong ties to their communities or families or have weak ties; have no criminal record or have had a prior conviction; come from any race, culture, or religion. The most common pedophile is an adult male who is married. The reasons why they offend are varied. Some were abused as children, but most were not.

The sad news is that most sexual offenses are committed by someone the victim knows — either a family member, friend, intimate partner, or acquaintance. About 27% of offenders are strangers.

How do these people get access to kids? And why do kids let them?

Sexual predators usually start by developing a relationship of trust with children, parents, families, schools, and youth organizations. They manipulate their relationships in order to have access to children. They often seem very charming, kind, and credible. They often test a child’s vulnerability and lower a child’s boundaries with small intrusions before doing something overtly sexual. They seek children who are not going to tell their adults.

Most sexual abuse happens because other adults in the child’s life are tricked into trusting the pedophile and because children are emotionally coerced into not stopping and not speaking up about unsafe behavior.  Kids (and teens and adults) are often manipulated into believing that the abuse is somehow their fault; into not telling at first because they don’t want to lose their relationship with someone who is important to them – and then because they don’t want harm to come to other people they love – or they don’t want to upset someone who is important to them. Pedophiles misuse their relationship of trust to have power over children and then use favors, bribes, and threats to coerce the child into keeping the abuse a secret and allowing it to continue.

What about online abuse?

Technology provides perpetrators with countless efficient and anonymous opportunities for approaching young people, for identifying youth who are more vulnerable to abuse, and for acting sexually towards children.  Studies done by the Department of Justice indicate that about 1 in 7 youth internet users have received sexual solicitations online and 9% have received distressing sexual material.

What can I do to protect my child from sexual abuse?

1)  Make SURE you know what is happening with your kids – who are the people with them? What are they doing? Where are they going?

2)  Put Safety First – ahead of embarrassment, inconvenience, offense, fame, or fortune. Take action when a child comes to you for help or when you suspect that there might be a problem. See our article about what to do when a child comes to you for help. 

3)  Make SURE kids know you CARE. Discuss the Kidpower Protection Promise with every child that you are in a position to support. Watch our 1 minute video, print out our free posters, and listen when kids come to you with their problems.

4)  Teach kids not to keep unsafe secrets. The Kidpower Safety Rule is that problems should not be a secret, any kind of touch should not be a secret, presents someone gives you should not be a secret, friendships should not be a secret, and activities or favors should not be a secret.

5)  Teach Kidpower skills for setting boundaries, recognizing and leaving an unsafe situation, resisting emotional coercion, and being persistent in getting help.

How can I prepare children with skills to stop potential perpetrators?

Kidpower teaches adults how to:

  1. Model respecting children’s boundaries about affection such as hugs and kisses and games such as tickling or roughhousing.
  1. Intervene to support the child in having those boundaries respected by family members, friends, and acquaintances.
  1. Use the Kidpower Positive Practice Method so that young people are successful in rehearsing how to set boundaries and how to get help from busy impatient adults who do not understand at first. Kidpower uses examples that are age-appropriate and relevant to our students using non-intrusive touch such as removing a hand on the shoulder – and in persisting in setting their boundaries through five levels of intrusion with someone who doesn’t listen, gets upset, offers a bribe, or makes them promise not to tell.
  1. Coach children in daily life to set their boundaries and to respect the boundaries of others – and to ask for help when they need it.
How should parents talk to their children about their body? Should they use real names for their body parts? Why?

The Kidpower Safety Rules about Touch and Play are:

“Touch, games, or play for fun or affection should be: safe, the choice of each person, allowed by the adults in charge, and not a secret.”

The Kidpower Safety Rule about private areas is:

“Your private areas are the parts of your body that can be covered by a bathing suit. For play or teasing, other people should not touch your private areas, nor should they ask you to touch their private areas, nor should they show you movies or pictures about people and their private areas. For health or safety, such as if you are sick, your parents or doctor might need to touch your private areas, but it is never a secret.”

See our article: Touch and Consent in Healthy Relationships.

It is helpful to teach children the real names of their body parts and to encourage them not to feel ashamed of any part of their body. Be aware, however, that sexual abuse can happen without anyone touching the child –  using a child for sexual gratification can happen in many different ways.

Kidpower also recommends that parents and all caring adults tell their kids, “Sometimes the people who kids love have problems and sometimes their problems are so big that they hurt kids or make them feel uncomfortable. If this happens, it is NOT the child’s fault and it does not mean that anyone is a bad person. It just means that everyone needs help. The way to get help is to tell an adult you trust and keep telling until someone does something to stop the problem. It is NEVER too late to tell.”

See our article: Sometimes the people who kids love have problems: What kids need to know and DO NOT need to know.

Remember that safety is an ongoing conversation, not a one-time lesson.

Are there any myths about child sex abuse that Kidpower would like to clear up?

Yes, here are a few:

1)  If they have been abused, children do need help and support – AND they can heal. This bad experience does not have to define the rest of their lives. This is important because we want children to feel good about themselves and not blame themselves or feel ashamed because of something that happened to them.

2)  Children who push boundaries and are inappropriate sexually do need to be stopped and to learn how to be safe with their behavior and to manage their impulses – AND they are not evil. They can learn and there are many Kidpower skills that will help them respect boundaries and behave safely.

3)  Raising a child’s awareness by discussing the bad things that people might do to them does NOT make kids safer – it just makes them anxious. Instead, successful practice of safety skills helps children to feel more confident and to be more prepared to protect themselves and get help.

See our article: Our Children Do NOT Need Our Fear.

What are some warning signs that children have been abused?

About 30% of children who have been sexually abused do not show any symptoms at all. The symptoms of child abuse can also be symptoms of other problems so it is important to check things out without making assumptions. Pay attention if a child starts:

  • regressing by acting younger such as bedwetting or becoming extra clingy.
  • having unexplained redness around their genitals or mouth.
  • becoming extra anxious including having nightmares, acting whiny, or getting easily upset.
  • expressing discomfort about doing certain places, being with certain people, or doing certain things.
  • saying or doing sexual things or playing sexual games.

Kidpower recommends that parents and other caring adults ask children occasionally in a calm, matter-of-fact voice, “Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that you have not told me?” Even if the response seems trivial or funny, respond with compassion without acting upset, teasing, or lecturing – remember that children often test their adults by seeing our response to small problems before they trust us with bigger problems.

What if a parent suspects someone has been abusing their child? What should they do?

Stay calm. Get the whole story. Get professional help for your child and for yourself. Make a report to authorities. Remove this person’s access to their child. Ask questions and insist on answers.

If the situation is confusing or  unclear, you can discuss anonymously with a professional on the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

If you are looking for professional help, see this Kidpower article: Choosing the right therapist for your child or yourself.

What resources does Kidpower have to offer?

Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International (Kidpower) is a leading global nonprofit dedicated to providing empowering and effective child protection, positive communication, and personal safety skills for all ages and abilities. Since 1989, Kidpower has protected over 5.4 million children, teens, and adults, including those with special needs, from child abuse, bullying, sexual assault, and other emotional and physical violence through our workshops, partnerships, and educational resources.

Learn more about Kidpower’s workshops, extensive online Resource Library with over 300 free articles, videos, webinars, and books. See these pages on our kidpower.org website:

Kidpower Services and Resources for Schools and Youth Organizations

Child Abuse Prevention Resources

Sexual Assault Prevention Resources

Bullying and Harassment Prevention Resources

Stranger Safety, Kidnapping and Assault Prevention, and Self Defense Resources

Resources for People Facing Prejudice

Services and Resources for People with Special Needs

RelationSafe Publications, offering low-cost engaging and comprehensive books, comics, lesson plans, curriculum, and training manuals for adults who want to teach People Safety Skills to the young people in their lives.

For example, the Kidpower Safety Comics series provides age-appropriate and entertaining and useful tools to introduce and discuss People Safety Skills with young children, youth, teens and young adults – including how to be safe with peers, known adults, and strangers.

Kidpower provides in-person and long-distance training and consultation to schools, organizations, and individuals from all over the world.

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.

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