By Katrina Nugent, Education and Community Outreach Coordinator
Being a parent comes with many fears for our children and their futures. Protecting them from harm easily sits at the top of the worry list. When it comes to the harm of sexual abuse and teen dating violence, many parents are just not sure how to even talk about it. Fortunately, MCVP: Crisis & Prevention Center can help.
MCVP not only provides crisis services to individuals and families experiencing violence and abuse, it also offers comprehensive prevention education and training for parents, teachers, schools, businesses, and community organizations. Guided by the belief that we can create a safer community and future for our children through effective prevention, MCVP offers free, developmentally appropriate programs for every student and every adult who cares for them.
Prevention is learned. This learning must start early and continue throughout all the different developmental stages in life. MCVP utilizes the social and emotional learning curriculum created by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont and the Healthy Relationships Project to bring prevention to the youngest learners.
The Healthy Relationships Project consists of three different curricula for three different stages: early childhood, elementary school, and middle school. Students in these programs will gain skills and knowledge to make them less vulnerable to abuse, feel more confident talking about their feelings with adults, and learn how to show respect and empathy toward others. Educators will learn the realities of sexual abuse and the grooming process, about healthy sexuality and development, how to respond to a disclosure of abuse, and how to foster a safer, healthier environment at school.
Beyond middle school, MCVP offers two different evidence-based high school curricula. Bringing in the Bystander, developed by UNH Prevention Innovations, helps students learn about sexual violence and dating violence in a safe environment while considering the type of community they want to build. Start Talking, created by Break the Cycle, helps students to recognize unhealthy and abusive behaviors in relationships and uses skill-based prevention to help them form healthy, respectful relationships instead. The Start Talking curriculum also contains a student-lead component to allow participants to continue the conversation after MCVP educators have left the classroom.
No prevention education program is complete without also considering what other messages young people are receiving at home. Whether parents realize it or not, children will learn their relationship skills and attitudes from the adults at home. Until recently, most efforts to prevent sexual violence have been ineffective and inaccurate. As adults, many of us also feel awkward and uncomfortable having conversations with our children about anything we might deem sexual, including using medically correct terms for human body parts. However, prevention is not just a one-time conversation. As parents, we must model healthy behavior and boundaries with our children starting from their birth and continuing throughout their lives. Prevention is most effective when it is integrated into many different aspects of life and not simply spoken about in explicit terms.
MCVP offers workshops for parents and caregivers to children of all ages to help gain insight about true prevention and skills that help add protective factors to their children’s lives. These workshops help to clear the awkwardness and guide parents to see emotional and sexual health as a part of overall wellness. MCVP strives to empower parents to be the best nurturing parent they can be, always keeping in mind the most important prevention tool is a caring, involved adult.
As COVID-19 has brought significant change to our daily lives, all MCVP prevention education programs are available virtually. MCVP educators have been working all summer to adapt and convert programming that remains true to our trauma-informed practices and follows recommendations for online learning environments. All programs are offered without cost or material expense. MCVP only asks for help in making our children and our community safer and stronger.
Originally published in Parent Express by the Keene Sentinel September 9, 2020