New program arms kids against abuse

April 13, 2012 8:05:32 PM PDT
The San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center is rolling out a brand new campaign aimed at teaching children how to keep themselves safe. The center timed a pilot project for this month because April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.

A first grade class at Argonne Elementary School in San Francisco is the first in the city to see the new training tools to teach them how to protect themselves from abuse, including child sexual abuse.

"We all have private body parts, the person behind you, next to you, beside you," Molly Jardiniano tells the class.

Jardiniano developed the safety program over 15 years of working with the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center. The center offers a crisis talk line for stressed out family members, counseling classes, temporary day care, and access to computers.

The child safety program is a front-line effort to arm kids against offenders. The message is simple: say no, get away and tell someone.

"No one touches your private body parts unless it's to keep you clean or healthy. And if anyone wants to touch your private body parts, or ask you to touch theirs, what do you think you should say?," Jardiniano asks the class at Argonne Elementary School.

"No," the children respond in unison.

The class teaches kids about their personal safety in a variety of different situations. The safety class on safe and unsafe touches is getting major support from private donors right now to expand. There are just not enough services available.

Alice Russell-Shapiro is with the Columbia Foundation in San Francisco. It's offering a large grant to expand the child safety awareness classes.

"The more children that these materials in the classroom can be gotten to, the sooner we will be down the road to eliminating this ill," she said.

Columbia Foundation and Blue Ribbon Partners are challenging other foundations to join them.

Patty Shimek is a longtime volunteer for the prevention center and founded Blue Ribbon Partners. She and her team designed the heart and blue ribbon symbol and created and paid for the new safety training materials for children.

"We want to empower them to have the strength to protect themselves and to be safe and to have a safe childhood," Shimek said.

Now help is on the way to give kids the tools they need to be safe.

If you want the training materials for your child's program, contact the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center. It holds its annual fundraiser next week. The keynote speakers are former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and actress Ashley Judd.


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