The Massachusetts Treatment Center is a correctional institution which houses 550 sex offenders. The Treatment Center is charged with the task of providing a sex offender treatment program that will teach sex offenders appropriate intervention strategies to help them not sexually re-offend. Using the committee's professional knowledge and available data it was clear that the program had to address the fact that the majority of sexual predators are known by their victims and that stranger attacks are in the minority. Treatment Center staff work with these sex offenders on a daily basis. With this, we have the working knowledge to pass on to our youth in the community.
The Just Be Aware program is a proactive program with the goal of giving children the necessary knowledge to minimize the chance of becoming a statistic. Through this educational program, children will learn what an inappropriate touch is, and will learn that they need to talk to a trusted adult about any worries or concerns in the event it takes place. To present our message, we educate with the use videos, posters, class participation and a contest.
The children will be shown the difference between a good secret and a bad secret. More importantly the children will be told that if they feel uncomfortable with a secret, they need to tell someone. With the help of the Roary Safe Paw, children will be asked to identify adults that they trust. We inform the children that everyone's Roary Safe Paw will be different. We ask the children for examples such as Mother, Father, Teacher, etc. They will learn that their bodies are private. To demonstrate this, the children will be shown drawings of Roary and his sister Roarette in a bathing suit. At this point they will be told if someone touches them in any area that a bathing suit covers or they are told to touch someone in an area covered by his or her bathing suit, they must say "no" and tell someone on their Roary Safe Paw. With 85% of all sexual abuse going unreported, we continue throughout the presentation to tell the children that if they feel uncomfortable with anything, they need to tell someone. We ask the children what they should do if they feel uncomfortable with a secret or a touch and the person is on their Roary Safe Paw? They are informed that they need to tell someone else on their Roary Safe Paw. With 90% of sexual abuse being committed by someone the child knows, we felt that this was important to tell the children. We also inform the children that they have done nothing wrong and should not be afraid to tell. The children are told that, in the end the secret or touch may not be bad, but they need to let an adult make that decision for them.
The final segment of this program will focus on strangers. The children are asked "What does a stranger really look like?" They will be shown a collage of individuals from all walks of life. Children will learn that strangers all look different and it will be reaffirmed that a stranger is simply someone that they do not know. They will also be given the 3 step safety message of what to do should a stranger approach. The message being: 1) Run , as fast as you can, 2) Yell, as loud as you can and 3), Tell , an adult you trust. Although the majority of sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows, we wanted to dedicate a small module of this program to the defense of a stranger.
At the end of the program session, the children will receive a Roary certificate of achievement, as well as the official Just be Aware Program sticker featuring Roary the Bulldog. They will also go home with the Roary Safe Paw (which they are asked to complete with their Teachers) to be placed on their refrigerators at home. An informational pamphlet will also be sent home for their parents. Most importantly, they will go home with knowledge. Knowledge of what to do and how to protect themselves should someone touch or attempt to touch them inappropriately or should they be approached by a stranger. They will also have the knowledge to pass on to others what they have learned.
Questions and Concerns:
How much does this program cost? The program is presented by the Department of Correction at no charge.
Who needs to be present from the school? We require that a guidance counselor be present. We require this for the good of the students as well as the school. It is also the responsibility of the school to inform the parents if they so choose.
What is the best age level to present this program to? We have found that the third grade level seems to be the best grade level. We will present the program from first to fourth graders also.
How many students can this program be presented to at any given time? We have found that the best class size is no more than 50. From 1-50 students is fine.
What type of equipment does the school need to provide? A television with a VCR is all that is needed.
Can parents attend the program? Absolutely, we encourage it. This program is open to anyone.
Finally, it is important to note, that we are very much aware that this program addresses extremely sensitive issues. In developing this program, one of our goals was to educate children on this subject matter without scaring them. It was also important to not be graphic or specific with examples. With this in mind, the statistics on sexual abuse confront us with the fact that children are being harmed every day.
- 66% of victims are between the ages of 6 to 12.
- 90% of victims know their abusers.
- 85% of sexual abuse is never reported.
- 80% of child molesters are most likely to establish a relationship with their
victim prior to the assault or assaults.
- 15 out of every 1,000 children are abused each year, with 8% of the 1,000 being sexually abused.
These statistics are alarming. We cannot continue to hide our head in the sand. Yet, the problem will not go away by itself. At the Treatment Center we are working to rehabilitate the sex offender. As a community we need to work to save our children from the horror of sexual abuse. Education is empowerment and knowledge offers our children the best chance to remain free from sexual abuse. Let us work together to make this a safer community for our children. In the event sexual abuse is already occurring, we hope through this program that the child will tell someone to make it stop.
If you are interested in having the Roary, Just be Aware Program presented to your school, please contact:
Brad Cowen, Director of Security
Old Colony Correctional Center -Chairman of the "Roary"Just be Aware Program
Tel # (508) 279-6792
I will be more than happy to address any question or concerns that you may have with the presentation, subject matter, scheduling or even requests to speak to references (schools) who have had this program in their schools.
Brad Cowen, Director of Security
Visit the Sex Offender Registry Board for information about dangerous sex offenders who live or work in each community.