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Using puppets to teach kids about sex abuse

December 3, 2007 11:51:58 AM PST
Protecting children by teaching them. That is exactly what one program in New York City is aiming to do.They want to teach children about sexual abuse in a comfortable and friendly setting.

This was not just another puppet show. At P.S. 18 in East Williamsburg, the third grade audience was, at times, entertained by the puppets. But the theme of the show was child abuse.

Marion White, Child Abuse Prevention Program: "It's really important that if a child is having a problem with abuse, that they get help."

White is a co-founder of the Child Abuse Prevention Program, also known as CAPP. Its traveling puppet show targets 3rd graders, for their ability to understand and still be attentive to puppets.

Jose Rodriguez, student: "It's not good to touch somebody in their private spots and it's not good to hit or punch or kick anybody ... and it's not safe."

After the show, kids are invited to stay and share any problems with counselors.

"They may say there's a problem with a bully in the school. They may say there's a stranger who makes them feel uncomfortable on their way home. But they also may say that they are getting hit and there are being marks left or ... don't want to be touched," Marion White said.

Sometimes what children say to presenters or guidance counselors after the puppet show leads directly to criminal investigations of child abuse.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan is currently prosecuting a case that began after a CAPP puppet show, when a student made a disclosure about a male relative.

"It was a nine-year-old and ... he eventually first denying that he had done it, eventually confessed to have improperly touched his nine-year-old relative," Donovan said.

The CAPP program reaches some 20,000 students a year in public, private and parochial schools. For educators at P.S. 18, the puppet show and its follow-up made perfect sense.

Karen Ford, principal: "To have children know that if they're living in a situation that is not appropriate for them, that there are people, adults, who will listen to them."

For more information, visit ChildAbusePreventionProgram.org.


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