Parts of the proposed health curriculum need a closer look. Concerning lessons on page 23 (draft), commonly called “child empowerment programs,” there are studies that show that these programs have been ineffective at reducing sexual abuse in children (grades K-3) and have actually caused increased anxiety, changes in sleeping patterns, and overanxious fear of strangers in children. (“To Protect and to Prevent,” Bissonette-Pitre, Ph.D., “With the Best Intentions: The Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Movement,” Berrick and Gilbert, and “Child Sexual Abuse: Prevention or Promotion,” Social Work 48, Rebecca Bolen.)
One study cites how these programs have been employed for 15 to 20 years, with no corresponding decline in child abuse (Bolen). These programs require powers that young children are not capable of, such as abstract concepts — this develops in later years. Children also think serially — “this” then “that.” They do not comprehend that a good person can do a bad thing. Over 70 percent of child sex abusers are someone close to the child.
As these programs increase anxiety and lack effectiveness, we are placing an undo burden on children by expecting them to protect themselves against predators that parents fail to identify. We need a curriculum that focuses on empowering parents, rather than expecting children to defend themselves.