The objective of the program is to educate children about what to do when confronted with abusive behavior such as safe and unsafe touches and other physical and emotional abuse. Every video in this series emphasizes the importance of going to a parent or another trusted adult when a child is confronted with an unsafe situation. An “Unsafe Touch” is defined as touching private parts of the body that are covered by a bathing suit. Stranger safety, Internet safety and other situations are also presented.
The program has been developed and scripted by child advocates, therapists, and national scholars and tested at various stages of development with students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and experts in the field of child abuse. The videos are separated into 2 age and grade groups: Kindergarten through 3rd Grade and grades 4 through 6. Each video features distinct age-appropriate characters that students related well to and found believable during pre-release message testing.
Our intent is to increase awareness of child abuse by the media, school personnel, community organizations and within families. Recognizing that the problem of child abuse exists, and by talking about it, is, we believe, an essential step in preventing it.
After producing animations for classrooms for the past eight years Wonder Media has demonstrated that animated lessons are an effective way to deal with many sensitive issues. This series of videos has been carefully designed to avoid the portrayal of circumstances that classroom teachers would find difficult to handle. We, of course, cannot show a child being touched sexually, and these videos are never explicit in the depiction of the problem. Instead, the videos emphasize that it is almost always wrong for anyone to touch a child in a private place such as those places on the body that are covered by bathing suit. Children easily recognize that certain behavior is simply wrong, i.e., “you don’t touch my toothbrush, you don’t touch my hairbrush, you don’t touch my diary, and you don’t touch me where my bathing suit is.”
The intent of the lessons is to create simple to understand rule icons with our characters featured on them. We will also feature an easy to repeat phrase that goes with each “Protect Yourself Rule”. We are hopeful that the first lesson in this series will result in a “need to have” response, so that educators/after-school program providers and parents are motivated to share the second lesson and all of those that follow..
The challenge in empowering children to protect themselves is, of course, the ambiguity inherent in the subject matter; life and human nature are never black and white. In the animated lessons, the relatively complex facets of abuse prevention and intervention focus on two basic elements: children must understand and recognize abuse, and they must know that they have the power to stop it. From this foundation, each lesson continues to build a comprehensive skill set and provide tools and confidence children need to stay safe.
The agent of change in the animated lessons is Ms. Barbara, who is the ambassador for abuse awareness and prevention for both age groups. Ms. Barbara tells the audience what she’s going to tell them, teaches the lesson, and then reviews what they have learned. Self-confidence is a key factor in a child’s ability to overcome abuse, and each episode emphasizes and re-enforces the self-worth of the characters, so that they feel comfortable communicating about abusive situations. Children will know that it’s okay to make a scene to protect themselves, and that they can say “NO” to an adult they do not trust.
The Key Players:
Dr. Jon Conte, PhD., University of Washington, School of Social Work. Dr. Conte has served as a leading consultant on the development, scripting and review of our series of animated ‘Protect Yourself Rules” videos.
Jon R. Conte is a teacher and scholar whose area of expertise centers on mental health issues related to child abuse and trauma. He holds a bachelor of arts in sociology-anthropology from Whittier College as well as a master and a doctorate in social work, both from the University of Washington. A founding president of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, Conte was honored by the association in 2012 with the designation of professor emeritus for life. In 2009, he received the society’s Ron C. Laney Award for Distinguished Service. He is a lifetime member of the APSAC Board where he serves as a senior advisor.
Conte is the editor of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Trauma, Violence and Abuse: A Review Journal, and is the consulting editor for the Journal of Forensic Social Work. He has written scores of articles, chapters and monographs, and has edited several books including his most recent publication, Child Abuse and Neglect Worldwide, a three-volume set published in 2014 by Praeger, which examines classic, current and emerging research on child neglect and abuse in countries around the world.
Dr. Barbara Smith, PhD; Ms. Rosemary Marta, MFT; Ms. Araceli Martinez, MFT; Ms. Maria Larosa, MFT; Ms. Pat Nevel, MFT. This group of child abuse therapists that treat abuse at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children were instrumental in content development and review.
Mr. Terry Thoren, President of Wonder Media. As an animation storyteller and media powerhouse, Mr. Thoren helped take Rugrats to global blockbuster prominence during his 12-year tenure as Chief Executive Officer of Klasky Csupo. He left Klasky Csupo to start Wonder Media with the vision to build a legacy business using his animation experience. His goal was to build an immersive world on the Internet to engage children emotionally, and educate them through animated games and video rewards.
Mr. John Thoresen, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation. Mr. Thoresen serves as the chief executive of the Foundation and the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. www.bsccfoundation.org The Foundation and the Children’s Center have funded the conceptualization, development and implementation of the project. Together with Terry Thoren and his staff, the program has been under development since January of 2015.