Monday, March 25, 2019

How to Help Students Who Have Survived Sexual Violence

"I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become."
-- Carl Jung

I’ve been thinking, during Women’s History Month this year, about two girls who were my students at different times of my public school teaching career.  The first girl was 12 years old and her mother’s boyfriend had raped her; she became pregnant and had the baby.  The second girl was in 5th grade and had been abused by her father when they lived in another state; the father was serving time in prison for his crime. 

I was told about each girl’s past but wasn’t given any guidance in how to interact with them or how to help them be successful in school.  For example, I didn’t know how much I should hold each student accountable for doing homework, if I should try to get them to pay attention in class and contribute to discussions or let them stare out the window, if I should let them know I knew what had happened to them, or what.  So in this blog post, I want to share 5 resources in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation.  Because according to one statistic (on Page 5), "1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused before the age of 18."

5 resources to help teachers support students who are survivors of sexual violence | The ESL Nexus
Find 5 helpful resources in this blog post; source: The ESL Nexus
Click on the blue and green links below for more information about each resource.

1) Best practices for supporting and educating students who have experienced domestic violence or sexual victimization 
From the National Education Association, this article gives background information specifically for teachers working with students who’ve been sexually abused.  It includes information about how such students may react in school and strategies for teachers to support their students.  At the end, there are links to 12 websites, 4 help lines, and bibliographies of children’s books aimed at elementary and teenage students about sexual violence.

2) What If My Student Discloses a Sexual Assault?
From Teaching Tolerance, this is a short article about what you can do if one of your students tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted.  The article presents different ways a student may divulge this information and how you can respond based on the circumstances.

3) Serving Teen Survivors: A Manual for Advocates
This 76-page guide is for all adults who work with teenagers, not just teachers, and is from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.  It presents statistics about sexual violence against teens, then discusses how teens may react to the trauma experienced, and includes 11 pages with tips in a Q&A format about specific aspects of working with teen survivors.  Following them, the guide includes 3 more sections about confidentiality and reporting requirements, responding in culturally appropriate ways, and a list of additional resources.

4) The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
This organization’s website has webpages and links to resources about child sexual abuse.  It isn’t aimed at teachers but some of the info provided will be helpful to educators, such as the page about the effects of sexual abuse on children.

5) Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
RAINN bills itself as “the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization” and its website contains of wealth of material for people working with survivors and survivors themselves.  They also operate a confidential hotline for victims of sexual violence.  The information provided isn’t directed at teachers but some of it is relevant, such as this webpage with links to identifying warning signs in students who’ve experienced sexual violence.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and I hope that if you are ever teaching a student who is a survivor of sexual violence, these resources will be of help to you.

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