Why do we train the children about these issues?
All people, including the young. deserve to recognize themselves as God’s children, worthy of care and protection. Safe Environment training helps children learn to set appropriate relationship boundaries and to protect themselves from violators. Safe environment training has been available for those enrolled in Catholic schools and religious education programs in our diocese since 2003.
Below are commonly asked questions related to the training.
Why is the Catholic Church doing this?
The Bishops, in their Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth, require the Church to train both adults and children in ways to prevent child sexual abuse. Protecting children is not something new to us as Church. The way we are doing it is new. We are now taking a more active role to create safe environments in our parishes and schools.
I bring my child to learn the Catholic faith. Why is this program linked with religion classes?
First, the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself addresses (in paragraph 2389) “…any sexual abuse perpetrated by adults on children or adolescents entrusted to their care. The offense is compounded by the scandalous harm done to the physical and moral integrity of the young, who will remain scarred by it all their lives; and the violation of responsibility for their upbringing.” So Church teaching acknowledges the harm caused by sexual abuse and our need to protect. Secondly, the Church desires a safe setting for all those who come to pray and learn. Finally, Jesus himself reminded us in Matthew’s gospel: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Religion class is a very appropriate place to handle these safety issues.
Isn’t this just the Church involving itself in more sex education?
Actually, the Safe Environment Program is not sex education at all. Catholic sex education teaches children how to live as adults in loving, chaste sexual relationships with their marriage partner. Safe Environment training, on the other hand, focuses clearly on personal safety and boundaries. It teaches our children and youth how to recognize unsafe touches and people, how to resist them, and most importantly, how to report them.
What is the best way to teach children how to be safe?
Current prevention research tells us good programs put child sexual abuse prevention in the framework of safety. It is more effective when it is taught by someone familiar to the children. The safety lessons should be taught at least once a year. Children should be taught to be assertive and to ask trusted adults for help in difficult or dangerous situations.
Will teachers teach children the name of private body parts?
No. Teaching the proper names of body parts is the job of the parent/guardian. The reinforcing lessons used by the schools and religious education classes cover the topics of safe adults, safe touches, and setting boundaries.
Aren’t you destroying the “innocent period” of these children’s lives?
All lessons are age appropriate and relate to personal safety. Keeping children unaware of the dangers around them does not keep them safe. Predators count on children not knowing what to do.
I believe morality should be taught in the home, not in school. Can I keep my child from participating in this training?
You are right; morality is best taught in the home. But this is personal safety training, not morality class, not sex education. Catholic moral theology compels us to keep children safe so if parents/guardians do not want their children to participate, they will be required to sign and turn in an official opt-out form to their school or parish.