Ask first, check first was the mantra at elementary school presentations aimed at preventing sexual abuse and abduction. Jen Waters, a sexual offense protection educator with Parents for Megan’s Law, provided students at Ann MacArthur Primary School and Locust Valley Intermediate School with important tips for preventing sexual abuse and for reporting any uncomfortable interactions should they occur.
Ms. Waters told children that it was an unconditional rule that they check with their parents or teachers before going anywhere with an adult that is not the person in charge of them. She explained that predators can use trickery to lure them, such as pretending they need help finding a missing dog.
“Grownups should never ask children for help,” Ms. Waters said. She explained that if they feel compelled to help someone, they must ask the grownup in charge first and explained that adults should only ask other adults for assistance.
Through stories, roleplaying and videos, Ms. Waters covered various scenarios that children could encounter, such as being touched inappropriately by strangers, neighbors or even relatives. She stressed the importance of telling someone they trust if this happened to them.
“There are no secrets,” she said. She also stressed that victims are never at fault and by telling someone, the predators can get the help that they need to stop abusing.
Fourth-grade volunteers participated in a roleplay exercise intended to demonstrate that adults cannot know something happened based on a child’s behavior or facial expressions, but rather may think the youngster is feeling ill or tired. Ms. Waters had the student volunteers act happy or sad without using words and then asked the audience to guess what was making them feel those emotions.
“Without using words, your parents will not know what happened to you or why you feel sad,” she explained.
Similar presentations are shared with the students each year and geared towards particular ages. As students get older, more detailed information is shared. Ms. Waters gives a more detailed presentation to fifth-graders than to third-graders, for instance.