FRANCOIS SENECAL-TREMBLAY JR.: Special to The Gazette – May 7, 1998
The final Street Safe Kids class ends. Diplomas are handed out to smiling children. Parents sigh in relief knowing that they can sleep in next weekend. Time for a recap.
Violent criminal abductions of children by strangers make up less than one per cent of reported sexual-abuse cases. Between 60 and 80 per cent of reported child sexual-abuse cases are committed by someone the child knows. or gets to know. So why street proof your children against strangers?
Imagine being 14, but you look like a 12 year old, taking a bus between two cities.
A stranger sits besides you. He is polite, sociable; certainly not a threat. He snoozes off. His hand touches your leg. It seems to want to crawl onto your lap. Impossible, the « nice » means sleeping.
That « uh,oh! » feeling grips you in the pit of your stomach, but you don’t know what to do. You are sitting between the window and the man. You can’t escape.
You are confused, unsure. Nobody warned you that things like this could happen. You improvise. You pile your bag and jacket between the « sleeping » stranger and yourself; placing your arm over the barrier to anchor it into place.
You can’t wait to get off that bus, but you still have at least a hour to go,
Now imagine the return trip. You sit by a win » dowand to your horror the same stranger appears, smiles and again sits beside you.
‘Terror sets in, but just a little wiser you immediately build that wall and wait nervously to get out of that bus.
This happened to John (not his real name) many years ago.
Had he been more street smart John thinks he might have reacted more dynamically, more assertively: changed seat, confronted the man, or « woke » him up.
As a parent, you might be concerned that the course’s street proofing simulations – which made some parents and children cry – might make your children fear all social interaction outside the house.
Luc Morin, director of psychiatry at Rivieredes-Prairies Hospital, says, « There is a myih that . the smallest of things can traumatize a child. It is probably false. What is truly traumatizing for children is the repetition of hurtful events.
RESPONSE BY PARENTS
« Isolated incidents, even if they are heavily emotionally charged, and certainly if the environment in which they occur offers support, do not seem to leave scars. The response to the trau• ma (by parents) is as important as the trauma itself. »
Even though most parents found some elements of the course emotionally difficult, all those asked said they would recommended it to other parents. They would even like their daughters to take date-rape and self-defence courses when they are older.
The children were asked if « the course was fun and worth taking? » They all responded yes. Asked if they « like the simulations’! » Half said yes. Half were uncertain. The biggest complaint was about homework — « too much! »
Mabyn Armstrong, director of prevention at the Missing Children’s Network, describes these tn:le of courses as « mental skid control » for children.
John knows a little mental skid control is better than none at all.
- For Street Safe Kids, call – 514-328-4683