Vt. schools implement child abuse prevention programs - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. schools implement child abuse prevention programs

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Prevent Child Abuse Vermont has developed programs specifically for schools with the goal of ending the generational cycle of child abuse. These programs are not limited to students. They train all who interact with children on methods to prevent abuse and empower children to be heard.

"Our objective today is to explore the role everyone can play in preventing sexual harassment and abuse in particular," said Mary Ann Fisher, a Folsom school counselor.

It's 2014, but the children here are dressed up in their favorite decade. It's called "Decade Day" at Folsom School in South Hero. Eighth-grade students are talking about a topic that has spanned for decades-- child sexual abuse.

"This year we've focused a lot more, as you know, on some of the more hard and difficult subjects of sexual abuse," said Fisher.

Fisher has been teaching the SAFE-T, or the Sexual Abuse Free Environment for Teens program, developed by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, for 15 years.

"What I really like about it particularly at our school, is that it gets kids thinking ahead of time about the relationships they're going to be facing," said Fisher.

Prevent Child Abuse Vermont began developing programs for schools after noticing a trend.

The Department for Children and Families Reports in 2012:

41 percent of sexual abusers were under the age of 20

Most of those abusers were between the ages of 12 and 19

22 percent were from ages 20 to 30

21 percent from ages 30 to 40

17 percent were over the age of 40 

The group has implemented the SAFE-T program in about half of the middle schools across the state, reaching almost 5,000 students and the group says that it's working.

"We actually had a six-year scientific evaluation by the University of New Hampshire at Durham, the Crimes Against Children's Center that showed that SAFE-T is highly effective, especially with building empathy and knowledge about child sexual abuse," said Linda Johnson, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

SAFE-T focuses on a wide array of topics including consent, the power of saying no, and not being afraid to speak up if something doesn't feel right.

"We're making these brochures where we pick a topic and we write that on the front and we can draw a little picture. So I'm doing consent and basically consent is having a mutual agreement between two people, so like asking permission to do something," said Folsom student Oliver Kowalewitz.

Prevent Child Abuse Vermont has 14 specialized programs for children of all ages, as well as programs specifically for parents and educators. Through their partnerships with the Department of Children and Families and various other agencies across the state, the group says they directly served about 17,000 people last year. 

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