Giving Compass’ Take:
• Filling a gap often left in sex education, Hugs and Kisses has been shown in Virginia since the mid-1980s to educate children about abuse, including how to recognize and report it. Each showing of the play is followed by an invitation for students to come forward about their abuse privately.
• How can schools better serve their students through sex education including consent, abuse, and reporting? Why is informational sex education on the decline in the United States?
• Find out how different states are teaching sex education.
Thousands of children across America share the anxiety, fear, and confusion that come with experiencing sexual abuse. Many are left without the power to recognize or report it. A theatre program in Virginia called Hugs and Kisses is now working harder than ever to change this.
Prevent Child Abuse Virginia provides training on child abuse and neglect and the reporting process before each cast tour. We have a log of questions that children asked over the years, and we’ve scripted responses to those questions.
All the people involved in the process—actors, CPS workers, school staff—are trained to answer questions and offer help to children who wish to disclose their experiences.
The musical tells the story of a young girl who is being sexually abused, and sensitively educates children about the different forms of touch and how to protect themselves from “secret touch”—a term that helps them identify inappropriate touching. At the end of the play, children are encouraged to ask questions and are introduced to a “special friend” who they can privately approach if they wish to do so—usually CPS workers from the local Department of Social Services or a staff member from the school with the mandated authority to file a report.
Schuchert says that an average of two to three children disclose every time the play is performed.
Read the full article about teaching children about abuse by Meera Vijayann at YES! Magazine.
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