An essential step in fighting child abuse is raising awareness about it. HARO believes that every single homeschool co-op and organization around the country should hold regularly scheduled events where leaders, teachers, parents, families, and children learn the facts about child abuse, how to prevent it, and how to report it. We also understand that not every homeschool co-op and organization is used to holding such events. So here is a step-by-step guide to planning a Child Abuse Awareness Day for your homeschool group:
Before the event:
1. Send out an announcement about the event to your homeschool group at least a month prior. Make sure to specify whether the event is mandatory or optional (but regardless, highly encourage everyone to attend!). Ask everyone to RSVP. List what readings you want people to do prior to the event.
2. Find a guest speaker to present at your event. Choose someone who has expertise with child abuse prevention. This could be a child advocate, a social worker, or someone who works with a child abuse prevention non-profit organization. You can find such professionals through groups like RAINN, Prevent Child Abuse, and G.R.A.C.E. We at HARO are also willing to speak to any homeschool group.
2. Obtain the following for the event:
- A white board or chalk board to write on
- Pens or chalk
- A copy of HARO’s “Child Abuse Awareness Day for Homeschoolers” handout for every one of your attendees
- Facility to host the event at
- An adequate number of chairs to seat everyone who RSVP’d (along with a few extra in case people show up who didn’t RSVP)
- (Optional:) Snacks and/or beverages for attendees
3. Figure out 2-3 articles you want people to read as homework before the event. We all know homeschool parents can be extraordinarily busy, so make sure the readings are not too long or complicated. We would suggest the following 3 pieces (though you are welcome to pick others):
- Rachel Held Evans’s interview with Boz Tchividjian from G.R.A.C.E., “No More Silence”
- Maia Szalavitz from Time, “How Child Abuse Primes the Brain for Future Mental Illness”
- The “Child Abuse” section from HARO’s presentation “Facing Our Fears” (pages 10-24; you have HARO’s permission to print and distribute this presentation in your homeschool group, provided that you properly attribute it to HARO and do not alter the text)
During the event:
You are welcome to create your own schedule for the event. The following suggestions are assuming your event is 2 hours long and the times mentioned are simply to help you manage the time. Feel free to modify as you see fit.
1. Introduce yourself. (1o minutes)
Talk a little about why you are interested in the topic of child abuse and why you think it’s important that your homeschool group addresses it.
2. Define child abuse. (20 minutes)
Explain that most U.S. states recognize 4 major types of child abuse. You can refer to HARO’s “What is Child Abuse?” page to help with this. On your board, draw the following diagram:
Ask attendees to give examples of each type of abuse. Write everyone’s examples under the right category. Note: Make sure this exercise remains a debate-free time. Since you are likely under a time limit, make clear up front that this is not the place to debate with each other about different understandings of abuse. For example, some people might consider actions like yelling or spanking to be abuse, whereas others might disagree. So be firm about accepting everyone’s answers for the purpose of this exercise.
3. Discuss the statistics about child abuse. (10 minutes)
After everyone’s brainstormed different actions that fall under the 4 major types of child abuse, have the group go over the statistics about child abuse. Talk about the frequency of each type as well as statistics about perpetrators and the consequences of child abuse. You can find these statistics at places like ChildHelp and the American Humane Association. Be sure to address the following key statistics:
- More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse.
- More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
- Perpetrators of child abuse or neglect are most often the child’s own parents.
- The incidence of abuse and neglect among children with a disability or chronic illness is twice as high as it is among average children.
4. Review the warning signs of child abuse. (15 minutes)
To be able to adequately fight child abuse, everyone in your homeschool group needs to be aware of what the signs are. So as a group, read HARO’s “10 Warnings Signs of Child Abuse.” Have participants take turns reading each sign. As they are read, write them on your board.
5. Take a short break so attendees can use the bathroom. (5 minutes)
6. Introduce your event’s guest speaker; listen to speaker. (30 minutes)
Ideally, your guest speaker should discuss a topic such as: the importance of addressing child abuse, prevention strategies, how to report child abuse, a personal experience with recovering from child abuse, etc.
7. Hold a question and answer time with your guest speaker. (15 minutes)
Allow attendees to ask questions and interact with what the speaker said. In the event that this period becomes heated, be sure to moderate. Be sure to thank your speaker for taking the time to present.
8. Brainstorm ideas to make your homeschool group safer. (15 minutes)
For the last 15 minutes of your event, have everyone brainstorm ways you can make your homeschool group safer. Keep track of the ideas on your board. If your group needs prompting, explore ideas like: creating a child protection policy, doing background checks, getting your leaders and teachers mandatory reporter training, holding a book club that focuses on child abuse prevention and recovery books, etc.
Hopefully this helps you as you encourage your homeschool group to address the pressing issue of child abuse. There is much more you can do, but sometimes the hardest step is just getting motivated to take the first step. The sooner you start speaking out about the importance of preventative actions, the better!
Author: The HARO Team