Sunday, February 21, 2016

Reporting Sexual Abuse-Erin's Law

Erin's Law.  A law being passed all across the US requiring schools to teach students about sexual abuse and how to report it. This is always a topic that is not easy to fact, it’s downright uncomfortable, but it's a conversation that needs to be had.  We talk to students all the time about saying no to drugs and stranger danger with no problems or hesitations, but when discussing sexual abuse and how to report it, it's a thin line to walk. Although it’s a hard topic, it’s a necessary topic. We have  students walk through our buildings everyday that could be suffering with this very issue, and not know they can speak up, or who to talk to when they do finally get the courage to say something.  

According to, the prevalence of child sexual abuse is hard to determine because it is often not reported.  Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:
  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.
This data is at least 5 years old, so the numbers are, unfortunately, much higher. It is now 1 in 6 boys instead of 1 in 20.  The Darkness to Light organization states the following information:  
  • Only about a third of child sexual abuse incidents/cases are identified, and even fewer are reported.
  • Researchers estimate that 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused.
  • Of these, 40% tell a close friend, rather than an adult or authority.
  • These “friend to-friend” disclosures do not always result in reports. This means that the vast majority of child sexual abuse incidents are never reported to authorities, though research suggests that disclosure rates to authorities may be increasing.
  • Child protective services agencies investigate about 55% of the child sexual abuse incidents reported to them. The rest are “screened out” for lack of adequate information or for other reasons. Of those reports investigated, only a portion meets the criteria for “substantiated.”
  • Child protective service agencies investigate only 20% of the incidents/children identified and reported by school personnel.
  • School personnel identify 52% of all identified child abuse cases classified as causing harm to the child, more than any other profession or organizational type, including child protective services agencies and the police. 
  • Two-thirds of teachers do not receive specific training in preventing, recognizing or responding to child sexual abuse in either their college coursework or as part of their professional development.
  • 24% of school personnel have never received any oral or written guidelines on the mandated reporting requirements of their state.
  •  As many as 25% of child sexual abuse incidents identified by professionals not working specifically in child protection services are not reported, despite a mandated reporting law that requires it.
Rebecca Lallier, creator of provided sample lessons that we could use, but it is not necessarily the lessons, but idea of talking about sexual abuse with 5-10 year old students.  There are several books and YouTube videos that work well for each grade level and that developmentally appropriate. 

My Co-Counselor, Kelly VanDaley, and I decided to present a short PowerPoint (created by Lacey Lane, School Counselor of Fort Mill School District) to our staff explaining Erin's Law, and that we will be presenting lessons regarding this law in upcoming lessons.  We did this to prepare the teachers, and give them a generic response to say to parents, not IF but WHEN they call and/or e-mail regarding this topic.  The generic response we gave our staff was simple: "Our school counselors presented a lesson today on body safety due to Erin's Law, a law that was recently passed in the state of SC. This law requires that we teach students about body safety and how to report sexual abuse to all students in grades Kindergarten-High School. For more information, please visit our school website and click on the Erin's Law tab."

There are several books that talk about this topic, some more helpful than others.  I used information from the books to create Notebook (PowerPoint) lessons for each grade level.  You can find the lessons I created by clicking on the link to my TeachersPayTeacher page.  I have the presentations available separately if you just want one lesson, or you can purchase the bundle and 3 for the price of 2.  The books I chose to use are listed below:

K-My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky
  1-Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman

2-Do You Have a Secret by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

3-Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept by Jayneen Sanders

4-Not in Room 204 by Shannon Riggs

5-Kid Trapper by Julia Cook

I would also suggest searching some of these titles on YouTube.  You might find video versions of the books there.  The above books use very simple and developmentally appropriate language.  You can also find an activity sheet to have students create a "Safe Circle" for FREE.  At the end of each lesson, I have students create their safe circle, which is a list people the students can trust and go to if they need help.  I also make it a point of emphasis that if they can’t go to one person on your list, go to the next person.  Keep talking until you get the help you need.  

If you have some time, check out this Ted Talk on reporting Child Sexual Abuse. Shout out to Angie McGee for sharing this with me!!

I hope this helps some of you or at least starts you on your way!! If you have some suggested lessons or comments, drop them in the comments!

Be Great!!