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Keeping children safe from predators

Published on

Cathy Dobson

With children having easy access to inappropriate material online these days, the Sarnia-Lambton’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre is trying to keep then safe.

Two educators with the centre make two to three presentations a week, talking about everything from healthy relationships and Internet safety to trusting your instincts and self-esteem.

Increasingly, their presentations are directed at school-aged children.

Kids as young as four and five are encouraged to talk about appropriate boundaries, when not to keep a secret and trusting their gut, says Chantel Butterfield.

She and Trish Vanoosterom recently told a group of 50 teachers about their role in keeping children safe from sexual abuse.

“We don’t just sit and talk to the kids, we involve them with activities like puzzles and games to hold their attention,” Butterfield said.

“We really just want them to trust their feelings, that uh-oh feeling,” said Vanoosterom. “You can tell little kids till you’re blue in the face not to get into a stranger’s car. But kids are innocent. They are trusting … so you have to tell them again and again.”

It’s important that all children identify with an adult they feel they can safely confide in, said Butterfield.

“The beauty of doing our presentations in the schools is that they learn that their teacher is comfortable talking about these kinds of things.”

Those who work with abused men and women know the majority are dealing with childhood abuse, said Michelle Batty, executive director of the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre and the Women’s Interval Home.

“We hear over and over that it was a neighbour or a babysitter, someone they should have been able to trust,” she said.

“If they had the tools to keep telling people when it happened to them, not keeping it a secret because they’re told to keep a secret … it would have been so much better for them.”

That’s why the centre focuses so much on educating children, Batty said. Presentations from Butterfield and Vanoosterom are free and customized for any group of any age.

The centre’s staff spoke to the teachers’ group at an International Women’s Day dinner hosted by the Lambton Kent Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario at the Quality Inn.

During the event, the teachers’ Status of Women committee presented Batty with 500 pairs of pajamas collected for the women and children who seek shelter at the Women’s Interval Home.

For details about age-appropriate personal safety presentations, contact Chantel Butterfield and Trish Vanoosterom at 519-337-3154 or [email protected] or [email protected].





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