Responding to child abuse and maltreatment is a two-fold responsibility, conducted through prevention and response. One way Kids’ Space, Muskogee County Child Advocacy Center (MCCAC) focuses on prevention is through the Play It Safe program, which is an evidence-based approach in teaching children ways to identify unsafe conditions and how to report if they are in an abusive situation. Our staff includes a Child Abuse Education Facilitator who presents this program to many of our local schools annually, with the hope for every child in Muskogee and nearby schools will have seen the presentation throughout their early education, which will increase their opportunity and likelihood to disclose, reduce the probability of victimization, and help save children’s lives.
Children have become very familiar with our Facilitator and many expect to see her each year. As a result, is not uncommon for children who come through Kids’ Space to talk about our Child Abuse Education Facilitator in their interviews, should they come to the Center for forensic services. During a recent forensic interview of a child, alleged to be a victim of child sexual abuse was asked as part of the interviewing protocol what they knew about being at Kids’ Space. The child responded that a lady from Kids’ Space comes to their school each year and talks about what people should and should not do. The child elaborated that what people should do is to (1) say “no,” (2) walk away, and (3) tell an adult and to keep telling until they are believed. The child recalled the information exactly as it is continuously presented to them by our Facilitator, and also included the hand motions for each step that are taught to younger children, demonstrating the child’s exposure to this curriculum. The child continued about what should not happen, stating that somebody should not hurt or touch somebody’s body in a way that is not okay. This served as an incredible transition in the interview for this child to talk about what happened to them, as well as their decision to disclose about their experiences. The connection this program has in helping children identify unsafe situations, to disclose, and to help reduce their likelihood of revictimization is evident in the many conversations being had just like this one.