My sexual abuse prevention unit for third grade is comprised of three lessons, which focus on body safety, trusting “yucky” or uncomfortable feelings, recognizing grooming behaviors, and the importance of telling about uncomfortable, scary, or dangerous situations. These lessons revisit and build upon skills and concepts that I cover in previous grades, but prior knowledge is not necessary, so you can use them as a starting place even if your students haven’t already had lessons about safe touch.
For these lessons you will need the booksNo More Secrets for Me by Oralee Wachter, My Body is Private by Linda Walvoord Girard, and Mia’s Secretby Peter Ledwon and Marilyn Mets. You will also need some drawing/coloring pages that you will find linked below. It will be helpful for you to familiarize yourself with the foundational information about how to teach sexual abuse prevention by reading the posts Teaching Kids How to Tell About Sexual Abuse, Teaching Kids to Recognize Grooming, and Preparing Students (and Yourself) for Sexual Abuse Prevention Lessons before you teach the lessons. You can link to all my posts about sexual abuse prevention lessons and resources by visiting A Collection of Sexual Abuse Prevention Resources. The objectives and ASCA National Standards addressed in this unit are listed at the end of the post.
Lessons and Materials
Lesson 1 highlights the importance of trusting “yucky” or uncomfortable feelings, removing yourself from the situation if at all possible, and telling an adult that you trust. The lesson consists of reading the story “Just in Case” from No More Secrets for Me, discussion, and a drawing activity.
“Just in Case” tells the story of Nickie, who loves to spend time at the local arcade. Gus, a man she and her friends know from the arcade, encourages her in her quest to get the highest score in a game competition. When Nickie feels discouraged after losing, Gus buys her a soda and sits down with her. At first Nickie is happy to have his company, but when Gus sits too close to her, puts his arm around her, and tells her he’s her favorite of all the kids, she feels uncomfortable. Nickie responds to her “yucky” feeling by telling Gus “No,” getting away from him, and going home, where she tells her mom about what happened.
I particularly like this story because it clearly and directly illustrates several important concepts, which our class discussion centers around:
- a seemingly friendly person may not actually be your friend
- even though the “yucky” feeling is often accompanied by a “freeze” response of not knowing what to do, it is a clear signal that you have to get away and tell a trusted adult about it as soon as possible
- even though nothing “bad” happens, Nickie was right to trust her “yucky” feeling, say no and move away, and tell her mom just in case. Doing so helped her feel better and ensured her safety.
We also discuss what Nickie could have done if her mom didn’t believe her or if she told Nickie that it was no big deal because nothing had happened. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the concepts that kids should keep telling until someone believes them and does something about it and that telling will potentially help other kids as well as yourself.
To conclude the lesson, students draw a picture of themselves telling an adult they trust that they had a “yucky” feeling about something. You can use the “Practice ways you might tell” page from the Very Important Person coloring book or blank drawing paper. For some reason my third graders just love the No, Go, and Tell and Check First coloring pages that they did in first and second grades, so I provide them with copies to take home and color. (Some of them still actually have the previous years’ papers hanging up at home!)
- your body belongs to you and you can speak up if you don’t want or like a touch
- trusting “yucky” feelings
- what to do if someone touches your private parts or makes you touch their private parts (say no, get away if you can, and tell)
- how abusers might try to use tricks to get you not to tell
The comprehensive story is gently told with separate vignettes of very true to life situations:
- Julie’s brother tickles and wrestles with her beyond what she is comfortable with and when he doesn’t stop when she wants him to, her dad steps in to remind him that in their family “Stop” means stop.
- When Julie’s uncle visits, he has her sit on his lap, just like he has ever since she was little. Julie doesn’t like it, but is worried that it will hurt his feelings if she tells him no. Her mom encourages her to tell him no, the uncle is fine with it, and Julie realizes that he didn’t understand that she felt uncomfortable until she told him.
- Julie and her mom have a heartfelt and loving conversation about what to do if someone ever tries to touch her private parts. The mom explains that it might be hard to get the person to stop and that the person might try to trick or scare her by saying it is a game, scaring, or threatening. She tells Julie that she should tell, no matter what, even if she is scared, and reassures her that any touching would not be her fault and that she won’t get in trouble. Julie’s mom is a wonderful model for parents about how to have this kind of conversation!
There are a lot of great discussion points in this book, so we talk about them as we work our way through the book, relating back to the examples from “Just in Case” from Lesson 1 of how Gus used some tricks to try to get Nickie to stay close to him and be his “special” friend and how Nickie trusted her “yucky” feeling, got away, and told. To conclude the lesson, students color the “Your Body Belongs to You” page from the Very Important People coloring book.
Lesson 3 focuses on recognizing grooming and the importance of telling a trusted adult about uncomfortable touch even if you are scared or don’t quite know how to tell. You will need the book Mia’s Secret and the “Tricky Words” and “Real Words from Real Kids” coloring pages from the Very Important People Coloring Book.
Mia’s Secret tells the story of a young girl who is groomed by her mom’s friend, who plays with her and gives her a board game as a gift. After a while he asks her to play another kind of game with him – the abuse – and then during subsequent events when she tries to resist, he uses the groomer’s tricks of cajoling by saying things like “But I played your game . . . I thought we were friends,” making her promise to keep the game a secret, and finally threatening her. The abuse stops when Mia figures out that she can get around her promise not to tell by telling her stuffed bear, Tikki, who then “tells” her mom. The book is beautifully done – it never gets too scary, and the abuse is treated very carefully without being pictured or described in detail.
Before reading Mia’s Secret I introduce the word grooming:
“Grooming means ‘getting something ready.’ Usually people use the word ‘grooming’ when they are talking about making yourself look clean and neat. On school picture day, you groom yourself by fixing your hair and straightening your clothes so that you are ready to have your picture taken. The word ‘grooming’ is also used to describe what a person who wants to sexually abuse a kid does to trick the kid, or get him/her ready to abuse. Usually a sexual abuser doesn’t abuse a kid right when they first meet. They pretend to be nicer than they are, they trick the kid – and sometimes the kids’ parents – into trusting them and thinking that they are friends.
This book is about a girl named Mia, who gets groomed by a man who is pretending to be friends with her and her mom. It’s not too scary, because it doesn’t tell exactly what actually happens to her, and it has a safe and happy ending, because Mia figures out what to do. While I’m reading I want you to notice what kinds of grooming or tricks the man tries, and also the clever thing that Mia does to help make herself safe. ”
After reading the book I have the kids identify the grooming tricks that the abuser used. We talk about how you can’t always tell at first if someone is trying to trick you, and we look back at the book to see when we think Mia might first have started having yucky feelings. We also discuss how Mia managed to tell and other ways that kids can tell if they’re not sure how to:
- write a note
- draw a picture
- use a stuffed animal or puppet
- say “I have something to tell you but don’t know how to say it”
- say “I’ve been having a yucky feeling about something
To end the lesson, students color the “Tricky Words” and “Real Words from Real Kids” pages from the Very Important People coloring book.
Objectives: Students will be able to:
- understand that “yucky” or uncomfortable feelings are an indication that a situation is potentially unsafe, that they should leave if possible, and tell a trusted adult about it.
- tell a trusted adult about any uncomfortable, confusing, scary, manipulative, or dangerous situations they have experienced.
- recognize that their body belongs to them and they have the right to say when and how someone else can touch it.
- identify that secrets and/or threats about touching should be told to a trusted adult.
- recognize that it is not a child’s fault if someone touches them inappropriately.
- understand that sexual abusers may use tricks, bribes, or threats to gain and maintain trust and secrecy.
ASCA National Standards
PS:A1.7 recognize personal boundaries, rights, and privacy needs
PS:A2.6 use effective communications skills
PS:B1.4 develop effective coping skills for dealing with problems
PS:B1.5 demonstrate when, where and how to seek help for solving problems and making decisions
PS:C1.3 learn about the differences between appropriate and inappropriate physical contact
PS:C1.4 demonstrate the ability to set boundaries, rights and personal privacy
PS:C1.6 identify resource people in the school and community, and know how to seek their help
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