No means no

Aug 18-31, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 28
No means no
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. Therese’s religious education students learn how to prevent abuse

As a result of participating in a special sexual abuse program mandated by the diocese, religious education students at St. Therese Parish now feel confident about how to avoid being sexually abused.

In 2002, the U.S. bishops approved the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in an effort to protect children and youth from sexual abuse at all levels of church life and to restore trust in a church scarred by the scandal of clergy sexual abuse. Article 12 of the “Charter” directs all dioceses to create programs and processes to teach children and youth about sexual abuse and its prevention. The Religious Education Office has been charged with the task of implementing Article 12 for children and youth in the parish catechetical programs.

Mary Duggan, Director of Religious Education at the Church of St. Therese in Syracuse, has implemented the program into the religious education curriculum.

The program was taught last March through May at three levels to children in kindergarten through second grade, grades three through five and grades six through eight. The objective of the program for children in grades kindergarten through second was to help them distinguish the difference between good and bad (appropriate or inappropriate) touch. The students were also taught that they had a right to say “no” to an adult’s bad (inappropriate) touch. The objective with grades three through five was to help the children realize the lures used by those who sexually abuse children. The students were also given strategies to keep from being tricked into uncomfortable and dangerous situations. The students in grades six through eight were taught how to recognize lures used by those who sexually victimize others via the anonymity of the Internet. The young teens also learned the necessary skills to avoid being victimized by Internet sexual predators.

Jane Stopher taught the program to the religious education students at St. Therese. She devised a plan for the students to design individual panels for a quilt that was later donated to the McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Site, a center that provides services for children who have been abused. The students were each given a quilt panel and a felt marker. They designed their panel, which illustrated the most important thing they had learned in class.

Stopher then sewed the 12 panels together to form the quilt. “I wanted to plan an activity for the students, and I also wanted them to learn about the McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Site,” explained Stopher.

After the quilt was completed, the children were impressed by the way it looked. It was displayed in St. Therese’s Church for a period of three weeks. “Because it was displayed in church, the students understood that it was very important to us,” said Duggan.

The idea of making the quilt was received very well by the students. “They received the idea eagerly, and they were very attentive when it was presented to them,” said Duggan. “I was surprised at the questions they asked. They were very interested in the project.

“As a former school psychologist, Jane has an understanding of how children learn. By designing the panels, it made them focus on what the class was about and they will remember it better. She helped the children learn the importance of staying safe. It was definitely a good thing for them to do.”

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