It is difficult at times to separate our personal selves from our professional roles.
People who choose to enter law enforcement or other service professions often have personal histories that include various types of childhood trauma.
Such backgrounds often motivate people to help others avoid or survive the traumatic events which they themselves experienced as children.
One of the goals of this training is to increase your ability, both personally and professionally, to recognize and understand child sexual abuse and increase your level of comfort when talking about child sexual abuse.
We cannot help but bring our own beliefs, life experiences, and backgrounds into our work. And that’s okay! But being aware of these issues and asking ourselves a few important questions will increase our comfort level and help us gain insight as to how this affects our professional interactions with students and teachers.
1.Was sex, sexuality, and normal sexual development spoken about in a comfortable way within your home of origin?
2.What messages did your culture, religion, or place of birth teach you regarding talking about sexuality and abuse?
3.Did you learn what Child Sexual Abuse was from your family? Friends? Media? The internet?
4.What have you learned through life experience about preventing abuse? Raising safe kids?
5.Do you understand the often-indirect language of children in need?
Take time to explore your own understanding of child sexual abuse and how it impacts (often silently) the children and adults you work with.
Your presence is seen and felt by the students in your school’s common areas, the halls, the cafeteria, and upon entering and exiting the school campus.
To many students, even those with whom you might never speak, you serve as a role model. You are looked up to! And for some you might become the mentor they desperately need.
Your everyday demeanor, communication with students and teachers, and visual presence sends a direct message to students and staff as to whether you are an approachable SRO. An approachable SRO carves out time to be present routinely on campus. This gives children the opportunity to seek help.
Understanding and Modeling Professional Boundaries in a School Setting
The reality that child sexual abuse does occur in school settings means that every professional working in a school—SROs especially—must strive to model safe and proper boundaries to every student.
To help guide your own thinking and boundary-setting decisions, ask yourself each day: Might anything I am doing, saying, or asking of a student be misinterpreted by anyone, including other staff and the students themselves?
To further guide your thinking and decisions, familiarize yourself with the three categories of behaviors by professional staff in school settings.
Behaviors that are appropriate and acceptable
Behaviors that may be misconstrued or are signs of grooming, need to be addressed by administration
Behaviors that cross professional boundaries and need to be addressed immediately.
Understanding the silent epidemic of CSA will enable you to spot the signs of abuse, connect students with appropriate resources, and view children and their behavior through a trauma-informed lens.
Remember that most children will never report abuse. They will display their pain in ways that impact their experience at school. Children often communicate something through their behavior, such as truancy, aggression, self-harm, or acts of harm toward others.
Having this training information available in your SRO toolbox will assist you to identify students in need – and may even save a life.