Archive for Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Puppet teaches preschoolers importance of ‘touching rule’

15-session class focuses on safety

November 23, 2005

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A puppet named "Rosie" is teaching local preschoolers an important rule: "No one should touch your private parts except to keep them clean and healthy."

The 3-foot-tall puppet is the centerpiece of a new class being offered in Lawrence that aims to help children avoid being the victims of sexual abuse. It's a crime that's most often perpetrated by people who know the child, but social worker Tracy Williams said schools don't place enough emphasis on teaching children how to prevent it.

"Our community is not providing our children with this information," she said. "I think talking about it is taboo. We teach our kids not to talk to strangers, and we stop there."

Williams is an employee of GaDuGi SafeCenter, a local agency that helps victims of sexual abuse. She recently finished teaching the class for the first time in Lawrence to preschoolers at the Ballard Community Center, 708 Elm St.

Williams puts "Rosie" the puppet into dangerous situations - for example, coming into an adult puppet's home to see an animal without asking a parent - and has the children tell her what Rosie is doing wrong.


Tracy Williams, with the GaDuGi SafeCenter in Lawrence, uses "Rosie" the puppet Tuesday to teach preschoolers to say "no" if an adult tries to touch them inappropriately. The 15-session course has other safety lessons, too, such as fire and gun safety.

Tracy Williams, with the GaDuGi SafeCenter in Lawrence, uses "Rosie" the puppet Tuesday to teach preschoolers to say "no" if an adult tries to touch them inappropriately. The 15-session course has other safety lessons, too, such as fire and gun safety.

"Sometimes she does bad stuff, and we have to teach her to do good stuff," preschooler Alexia Crowe explained.

The first seven sessions of the 15-session class cover basic safety rules, such as fire safety and gun safety. It's not until midway through the course that Williams introduces the rule about their private parts, which she calls the "touching rule."

Williams teaches children that if someone tries to break the rule, they should do three things: use words that mean "no," get away and then tell a trusted adult.

On Tuesday, Williams went around the room at the Ballard Center testing what each child had learned by using an adult puppet named "Rosalita."

"Let's pretend Rosalita wants you to sit on her lap, and you don't want to," she said to one child. In other cases, Rosalita asked children if she could tickle them or put her hands down their pants.

The children took turns saying "no," then walked to GaDuGi intern Dacia McCabe and told her someone had broken the touching rule.

"Thank you for telling me. I'll help keep you safe," McCabe said.

According to GaDuGi SafeCenter's figures, one in three girls and one in six boys will be the victim of sexual abuse, and 90 percent of offenders are known to the child.

The Ballard Center offered a "parent orientation" before the class began. The center's early-education director, Michelle Scott, said all the parents who attended were supportive.

"I just think the earlier we bring it into kids' lives, the less controversial it's going to be," she said. "It's just good for the kids to be exposed to that and learn early on what's appropriate and what's not appropriate."

Williams said Lawrence's HeadStart program has agreed to offer the program next year, and she hopes to eventually see it taught in the public schools.

6News reporter Laura McHugh contributed information to this article.

Comments

Linda Aikins 9 years, 6 months ago

Nice work Tracy! I wish someone had told me this when I was young.

I used to live next door to you - gave you the bench. Hope you are all OK!

Ragingbear 9 years, 6 months ago

Here is an actual quote from a popular kids show: "Remember boys and girls, I'm your special friend. And if you tell anybody about me, then I'll have to go away."

Kind of spooky some of the double standards. But teaching kids early is important, especially being that is when most people prey on them.

badger 9 years, 6 months ago

I found it interesting when some years ago, Big Bird stopped being the only one who could see the Snuffleupagus (sp?). Apparently, the producers were no longer comfortable with the idea of endorsing to children that they keep their friends secret from others, and that they hide things from their parents. It was, I think a balance of encouraging creativity (having your 'real' imaginary friend to play with) vs. children's safety (not keeping the things you do with your friends secret from your parents), and though it makes me sad, I'd rather have the kids not confused about when to tell and when to keep secrets.

Bear, what show is that? I'm kind of surprised to hear that someone is still doing that?

People who prey on kids are creepy resourceful. In once instance I know about, the molestor gave teddy bears to his victims, and explained that the teddy bears 'talked' to him and would tell him if they didn't keep the secret, and then he'd go away and not love them any more. It's a hard balance to keep kids aware and safe without destroying their innocence or their opportunity to be kids.

Ragingbear 9 years, 6 months ago

Well, I will give you a hint. He's big, purple, and annoying as hell to adults.

badger 9 years, 6 months ago

I didn't think of Marion....you're probably right.

My suggestion of Barney was prolly way off base. Besides, Barney caught nine kinds of flak for that kind of thing in the 90s, so I can't imagine the producers would be stupid enough to still be doing it.

Man.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 6 months ago

It's amazing how many things come up when you google "Remember boys and girls".

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