All children deserve a happy childhood. That’s why it’s important to teach them about what their rights are at an early age, so they can learn how to protect and defend those rights. Because youngsters are so vulnerable to abuse, particularly from those who may be trusted family members and friends, who make up the great majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse, the internationally renowned Child Assault Prevention (CAP) Program was developed for elementary-aged children. It’s a program that we at the Rape Crisis Center deeply respect have been implementing for several years in schools all around the Clark County School District.
The CAP program uses role-plays and guided group discussion during a one-hour empowerment workshop to train children to recognize potentially dangerous situations. The program focuses on bullying, advocating for oneself and others, tricks that strangers might use, how people might know when their rights are taken away, and how to ask a trusted adult for help.
The workshop role-plays include:
- “Bully”: teaches how to handle bullying situations.
- “Stranger”: teaches appropriate ways to deal with strangers, and that “dangerous” strangers aren’t always so easy to identify.
- “Uncle”: shows how people who the child and their parents may know and love can still do things that take their rights away, and talks about “good and bad” secrets.
- “How to ask for help” practice: gives children an opportunity to identify trusted adult helpers in their lives, and also allows the children to practice talking with a trusted adult and how to get an adult’s attention.
After the workshop, there is a 30-minute review period for those who need an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a facilitator. During this time, students are invited to come outside the classroom and speak with a facilitator about anything they learned during CAP or any related issues. Counselors are then notified of any significant issues, and in cases of abuse, Child Protective Services (CPS) is notified.
The effectiveness of this program is supported by research, including a published report from Rutgers University School of Social Work. Sadly, it is also supported by the reports of abuse and serious family issues that facilitators hear at just about every school they visit. It is our hope that children who go through this program gain the communication skills and strength of knowledge to protect themselves in the future, and to report things going on in the present.
Last year, over 7,000 students heard the empowering words of facilitators, “We’re here to talk about how to stay safe and how we can protect ourselves!” Our hope is that every one of those children left the CAP session with a sense of strength and support to move through the world as safe, strong, and free young people.
For more information about CAP, or to find out how to get CAP at a school near you, please contact RCC Education and Outreach Manager Gabrielle at Gabrielle@rcclv.org.