Teaching Personal Safety and Abuse Prevention

Did you know that Erin’s law has been passed in 37 states? Erin’s Law is named after childhood sexual assault survivor, author, speaker and activist Erin Merryn, who is the founder and President of Erin’s Law and mom to a cat named Carrot.

What is Erin’s Law?

” ErinsLaw.org requires that all public schools in each state implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program that teaches:

  1. Students in grades preK-12th grade, age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult.
  2. School personnel all about child sexual abuse.
  3. Parents and guardians the warning signs of child sexual abuse, plus needed assistance, referral, or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families.”

Source: https://www.d2l.org/erins-law/

What should I be teaching?

So what are the student objectives when teaching Erin’s Law and abuse prevention?

  1. Students understand the difference between safe and unsafe secrets.
  2. Students can demonstrate self-advocacy and refusal skills.
  3. Students can identify trusted adults they can report to.
  4. Students understand the difference between safe and unsafe touches.

How do you describe what is a “private area?”

There are many different ways to describe what is a private area. Many counselors refer to this as your bathing suit area, or any “area covered by a bathing suit”. You can also describe it as “from your neck to your knee” or “chest, bottom, and between your legs.” I use a variety of this language and sayings during my lessons.

How Do I Teach Erin’s Law?

Practice and roleplay saying “No”!

Get your copy of our “ways to say no” sign here:

Discuss a variety of ways you can say “no.” For example, “I don’t like that,” “I’m uncomfortable” or simply “I’ve got to go.” Model for students how they can say no then ask students to say their favorite version of “no” to you or each other.

Give them some feedback- do they need to say it louder to with more confidence? After coaching, ask students to again practice saying it to you and/or their teacher.

Coloring and drawing activities for K- 3

Teach students to trust their gut!

In 4th-6th grades, we are always talking about being mindful and listening to your body to sense when you are dysregulated. During our lesson on mindful awareness, I expand on this by talking about listening to our gut. When we get that gut feeling that something is wrong or that a secret is unsafe to keep, we don’t keep it. We trust our gut if we see something online, we trust our gut if someone asks to take pictures of your private area, and we trust our gut if someone tries to show me their private area.

Lesson, activities, and handouts for 3rd- 6th.

Read all about it!

There are so many great books that talk about abuse prevention and consent. Here are a few of my favorites:

Write, color, or tell me who is your trusted adult at school AND home!

Make sure students demonstrate that they know who they would tell. I ask for students to share at least 2 adults at home and school. This is important in case it is one of their trusted adults that is doing the abusing. We discuss how it doesn’t matter who it is that abusing you, you must tell an adult.

Let’s watch!

Fight Child Abuse has great videos for all grades. I also love Ruby’s Studio Safety Show video.

Have students distinguish between Safe Vs. Unsafe Secrets

Erin was told by both of her abusers she needed to keep her secret safe and she did for a while. This is why it’s so important that we help students identify unsafe vs. safe secrets. You can do this by having students sort task cards into safe or unsafe piles, play Ask, Ask, Switch, or a game online like Kahoot! or Nearpod.

I have a friend who always tells her kids that secrets are sneaky and surprises are sweet, so we don’t keep any secrets but it’s ok if we don’t share about surprises and ruin the fun and excitement.

Don’t forget to include the caregivers. It’s important to share with caregivers signs of abuse and arm them with resources.

Here is a great article on protecting kids during the holidays.


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