The Talbot County Department of Social Services is partnering with Talbot County Public Schools to offer the Empower Me Program, a child sexual abuse prevention program. The program is in response to Erin’s Law that has been passed in 35 states mandating child sexual abuse prevention. Talbot County Child Protective Services receives approximately 400 reports alleging child physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect annually. Most occurrences of sexual abuse are perpetrated by a family member or close family friend. Empower Me teaches children, ages three through 12, and adults about personal safety.
“Unfortunately, children as young as first grade have encountered these situations so it is important to educate children about possible situations that can occur early in their development,” states Bill Keswick, Curriculum Supervisor for Talbot County Public Schools.
Paris Quillet, Special Project Coordinator for the Talbot County Department of Social Services, provides one personal safety lesson to each first-grade class in all of the county elementary schools during the school year.
“This program can help reduce sexual abuse for our youngest and most vulnerable students. The lessons are developmentally appropriate and are not graphic in nature, focusing on prevention through establishing a system of trusted people and expectations for personal space,” Quillet explains.
Classroom presentations have been funded with support from Talbot Community Connections and Talbot County Government. Each student receives a coloring/sticker book about body safety. A hardback book, “I Can Play it Safe,” is provided for each classroom, along with materials to assist teachers in completing an activity with students focused on developing their safety net of “Five Trusted Adults.”
Keswick adds, “This program connects with the Maryland State Department of Education’s Health Standards and helps students develop the skills and avenues for communication when they find themselves in a particular situation.”
Among the standards addressed through the program’s lessons are identifying how familiar people or people in authority can help or harm children; demonstrating refusal skills and other ways to take action if someone is making you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or disrespected; and explaining the importance of sharing all information with parents/guardians/trusted adults.
For further information about the Empower Me program, contact Paris Quillet at 410-770-5870 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.