Are Your Kids Safe At Church? What You Need to Know

Your kids deserve to be safe everywhere they go - especially at church. Kimberly Perry is on the podcast diving into personal & institutional safety for kids.

Are your kids safe at church? At school? At the swimming pool?

Kimberly Perry is on a mission to ensure that every child is equipped with personal safety knowledge and strategies. She’s helping parents and other grown-ups learn how to help children learn personal safety. Tune in to The BTR.ORG Podcast and read the full transcript below to learn more.

Where Can I Find Kimberly’s Books & Other Resources?

In this episode, Anne and Kimberly discuss the incredible resources available from We Stand Guard, including:

BTR.ORG Is Here For You

As you empower your children with personal safety strategies and tools, remember to practice self-care. Our BTR Group Sessions are a safe space for you to process trauma, get answers, and receive the support you need.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
I’m excited to have my friend Kimberly Perry here again. We’ve had her on the show before. She is the author of Say No and Tell: Training Grownups in Boundaries and Personal Safety for Kids. She’s also the author of two other books called Say No and Tell, which I use in my Home frequently. In fact, just yesterday morning, my five-year-old son pulled it off the bookshelf and said, mom, let’s read this again. And we read through all eight scenarios. My kids love the books. So welcome Kimberly.

Kimberly (00:30):
Thank you. And that really warms my heart to hear that, and that is a real important concept to not only read the book but then revisit the concepts and especially when it’s child led. That’s very inspiring to me.

Who Are Kimberly’s Training Workbooks Intended For?

Anne (00:40):
We love your book, so thank you. So tell me about your new book. So this is a training workbook intended for clergy or children’s teachers.

Kimberly (00:51):
This training workbook is designed for any grownups that are working with children with an organizations. However, as you just stated, I’ve been finding that many parents have been buying the book train themselves personally as well. It can be for youth pastors to train their children’s ministry volunteers. You could go and train your karate club and all the staff members that are working there or a soccer club, any staff members or grownups that are working with kids with an organization will benefit from this training workbook. However, section two, which I’ll get into later specifically goes into how to teach boundaries and personal safety within the home to build that foundation.

Why Did Kimberly Write a Training Workbook?

Anne (01:32):
Why did you decide to write a training workbook?

Kimberly (01:34):
Pastor Doug and Pastor Robbie at Crossroads Church asked me to present a boundaries and personal safety workshop for their volunteers working with kids in the children’s church. To back up a little further, over the past several years in my home church, we’ve been working to add support services to help people recover from the harms of pornography. This is sort of the bigger picture to roll that out. I did a couple presentations about the harms of pornography last winter.

I did one presentation for a group of women and then one presentation for parents of teenagers about the harms of porn. So our church has really been implementing this into the very DNA and fabric of our church. And then at one of our monthly meetings we realized what are we doing for the kids? What are we doing to prevent? What are we doing to get in front of what are we doing to help this next generation?

Positive Feedback

(02:23):
So that’s when I decided to take what I had written in the Say No and Tell books, read aloud children’s books for children, and turn it into a workshop to train the grownups working with kids and how to implement that within the organization to make it safer as an environment. The positive feedback was very supportive and people were asking for more and that’s what helped me think about turning this into a book.

There was a man that came up to me afterward, and this is what he said about the training. He says, this is the first time in 35 years of regular church attendance that I’ve ever been exposed to. This I’ve always felt was institutional denial and it’s almost universal. I learned that there are good well-developed materials available to combat this problem and if you go on my website, you can see plenty of more positive testimonials.

The Prevalence of Institutional Child Abuse

Anne (03:10):
So was he saying that abuse is institutional?

Kimberly (03:13):
I think what he was referring to is we look at culture and society and we see the #MeToo movement and we see all this recovery and intervention and healing going on. We hear about Penn State University, we hear about Michigan State University and the gymnasts with Larry Nassar. It’s not only sometimes personal denial and family system denial, but it can actually also be institutional denial and he has seen that as a concern over the years, even though it’s a sensitive topic. He was delighted that we were beginning the conversation.

Anne (03:47):
We didn’t say this at the beginning of the podcast, but Kimberly’s books are about how to protect children from sexual abuse and other kinds of abuse, both in terms of the harms of pornography, someone exposing them to pornography or also abusing them emotionally or sexually or physically. So I really appreciate the work that you do. Kimberly, how do you teach parents how to teach personal safety?

Teaching Boundaries & Personal Safety to Elementary Students

Kimberly (04:16):
Well, the most important part is to learn the child friendly language of what to say and what not to say, how to empower kids with those specific tools. My background is I was a teacher for 15 years and I’ve taught in both public and private schools in California, Michigan and North Carolina. I’ve taught preschool to fifth grade. I have a bachelor’s in kinesiology and a master’s of arts in teaching.

So when I was teaching health and physical education in Michigan, I ended up teaching boundaries and personal safety to over a thousand elementary students. And I was wondering why I had never been taught these prevention strategies when I was young and I wondered to myself, especially because of the alarming statistics, I was wondering how can it be that at least two out of every 10 girls and one out of every 10 boys are estimated to be sexually abused before their 14th birthday?

Important Statistics

(05:06):
And that’s found at the childmolestationpreventioninstitute.org. Also, every eight minutes, Child Protective Services responds to a sexual abuse report according to the rain organization and according to the CDC one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.

I realize that we need to empower children with self-care skills and people safety tools, which is critical for their safety and wellbeing. More specifically, as a health educator, the way we define personal safety is it means prevention of child sexual abuse, and the way that you do that is learning boundaries as well as child-friendly language. Kids can learn to say no to unsafe touches in situations by protecting themselves with boundaries to prevent or stop sexual abuse.

Anne (05:55):
Kimberly, in your opinion, do you think boundaries have not been taught directly? We teach boundaries with the drug stuff like just say no. Why do you think boundaries has not been taught across the board in relation to abuse?

Getting “In Front” of the Problem

Kimberly (06:14):
It is a very sensitive topic. What I like to tell parents is that the kids and the grownups and the organizations that learn about boundaries and personal safety can be safer, otherwise everyone is vulnerable. Even though there is great discomfort and pain by taking the time to learn about preventing child sexual abuse, it does not compare to the pain of finding out that something has happened and it’s too late.

Plus then there’s the pain in years of recovering and healing from the trauma that affects the child, the family, and the community. So it takes a lot of bravery to get in front of the problem. I know for me as I’m researching it and when I am sharing the books with people, I cannot tell you how many people have shared with me their personal stories.

People up in their seventies years old, all the way down to their twenties and thirties, sharing with me their personal stories of child sexual abuse that they’ve never told anyone before. The impact is great. The more we can make it safe for people to talk about, then we can also begin to move into the prevention phase.

“Explicit instruction for the grown-ups & children”

Anne (07:17):
Kimberly, you urge grownups working with kids to learn how to implement boundaries and personal safety in their organization. Will you talk about how you do that?

Kimberly (07:25):
I’m going to give you the big picture and then I’ll break it down into the actual training workbooks. The name of my website’s called we stand guard. We want to make the term personal safety commonplace or familiar term on two fronts, both inside the home and outside the home. So I’ve created three Say No and Tell books that are a part of the We Stand Guard Boundaries and Personal Safety Training program.

As you mentioned earlier for inside the home, there’s the two Say No and Tell children’s books: Maisie the Monarch for Girls and Dax the Dolphin for Boys, which are read aloud for kindergarten through third grade. And these two children’s books offer explicit instruction for the grownups and the children through a story, scenarios and solutions. And the key is to use child-friendly language. This new launch of the training workbook is for training outside the home.

Teaching Organizational Prevention of Child Abuse

(08:15):
This is something where anyone can present this boundaries and personal safety workshop and take the preventative steps to safeguard against child sexual abuse by empowering everyone in your organization. This training workbook is also a customizable toolkit for both the presenter and the participant. The key is to begin the conversation in your organization in section one in the training workbook, and it’s about raising awareness of child sexual abuse and the need for boundaries and personal safety.

So there’s statistics in there. I have in highlighted in blue bold of possible child-friendly words that you can use outside the home. Within the organization, the leader and the director of that organization would need to help determine what the common language is throughout the organization. Section two equips the grownups and children and boundaries and personal safety for kids with a three phased approach. So this is actually kind of the parent workbook section where I break down how do I teach boundaries and personal safety.

Swim, Fire, Internet, People, & Personal Safety

(09:19):
You begin with teaching general health safety concepts like swim safety, fire safety, and then secondly, you introduce a little more unique safety concepts like internet safety and people safety. Then you build upon that. And the third step would be introducing the concept of personal safety, which is boundaries and keeping your body safe. And then section three of the training workbook is opening doors for intervention, and this is specific to the organization of what steps do they need to do to take a look at.

For instance, you want to do an environmental scan where you go through and rope off the vulnerable places within the environment. You want to come up with a code of conduct for interacting with children, and this could be tailored for infants, toddlers, elementary aged, teenager, high school age, and that way everyone understands what the protocols are.

For instance, when a third grader needs to take a bathroom break, what needs to happen and what does that look like? And those codes of conduct can be posted everywhere throughout the organization so any staff members, volunteers as well as the children and the parents all understand and it’s all in the light of what’s supposed to be happening

Anne (10:33):
At my church, they have a policy that two adults need to be in the room with children at all times. Everybody knows that, and so it makes it really easy if there’s just one adult in the room with some kids that it’s like something’s not right here. We need another adult. Let’s get the other adult in here that at the very least you are talking about policies for organizations like this to protect children, right? Yes.

“We want to set people up to be successful”

Kimberly (10:56):
It’s important for everyone to understand what those are so that everyone’s on the same page. We want to set people up to be successful. However, if people step outside of those boundaries, then there’s also a safe community where you can tap someone on the shoulder and say, I’m not sure if you knew about this, but this is how we do things so that everyone’s being set up to be safe and successful.

Anne (11:21):
Awesome. I would like a copy of this so that I can share it with my church for our children’s organization.

Kimberly (11:26):
Yeah, that’d be wonderful.

Anne (11:28):
Yeah, that would be great. I love using it in my home and my kids love it and I love that they love it. I love that they want to take the books off the shelves and they bring ’em to me and want me to read them. They love the pictures, they love the examples. I would love to have my church and my elementary school or other adults who interact with children all the time be aware of this program.

Getting in Front of The Problem

Kimberly (11:53):
It’s a real positive way to get in front of the problem. We can start empowering the next generation so that we have more stories that would belong in the hashtag me too prevention. One of my latest testimonies was of a mom of a 16-year-old. One of the slogans she learned is that telling is not tattling, and so there was a social media incident that came up.

She was able to explain to her daughter, please let me know what’s going on. And she said, telling is not tattling. And they were able to intervene within this questionable social media interaction and there was another mom who read the Say No Tell book, a mother of a sixth grader in a similar situation where she took in the content and then made it her own for a daughter who’s a little older.

They were at the pool swimming and there was a man kind of staring uncomfortably at their daughter. The daughter had the bravery to finally go up to her parents and say, I’m feeling very uncomfortable. He’s staring at me. And she was so uncomfortable. She was trying to hide behind her parents while they were leaving the pool, and they discussed it more in the car. The dad tried to go back to food investigative. It was really neat because they had that bridge of communication where she could recognize that oh, feeling and that instinct inside of her saying, there’s something not right here.

Kimberly’s Jingle

Anne (13:08):
I love the jingle. Will you repeat the jingle for me? And I love keep telling until it stops.

Kimberly (13:14):
When I was thinking and praying about this jingle, I really wanted it to be short and sweet and rhyme, but also be something that packed a punch and wasn’t leaving anything out. The way it’s read is remember to say no and get away. If you can tell someone and keep telling until it stops, take a stand.

The telling someone and keep telling until it stops is critical because children seldom tell. I think it’s around 40 something percent according to darkness, to light organization. Around 40 something percent of kids will tell, and of that 40% many will tell a friend, which basically goes unreported. Not only are we instilling in children that it’s okay and it’s safe to tell mom what’s happening or a questionable encounter or something that’s going on, but if that first person doesn’t believe you or the second or the third person, then you’ve got to keep telling until the right person believes you and will help and make it stop.

Tell and Tell & Don’t Stop Telling

Anne (14:17):
Applying it to my own situation where I was in abusive relationship for seven years and I talked to people about it and I kept talking about it and I didn’t know at the time that it was abuse. I didn’t describe it that way because I didn’t have the words to say that at the time I called it his anger problem or I’m confused or this weird thing happened until I finally was able to figure out what was going on, and that was just simply thanks to my ex-husband being arrested because of his arrest, I was finally able to get the clarity I needed.

I was so happy to see that in that jingle. Keep telling until it stops because that is what I did, and I think it kept me a lot safer than if I would not have said anything. When kids start telling, they might not have the words to describe it either. They might not be able to come to you and say, I’m being sexually abused. Right?

They might not have those words, but if they can just continue to try to tell someone and do the best they can, eventually things will be figured out. I really pray that for all victims of abuse that they can continue to try and talk about it to the best of their ability until they have the words for it or until a helper gives them the right words that they need.

“Abuse is abuse.”

Kimberly (15:32):
That example you gave is powerful because it does parallel exactly what we’re talking about. I was at the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation in Washington DC and one of the speakers shared a quote that I thought was very interesting. When it comes to trafficking and child abuse, whether it’s a boy or a girl that’s a child or a man and a woman, it’s the same person. It’s just a different stage of life.

Abuse is abuse no matter at what point in time that we’re learning it. It’s a powerful tool because at that point, we can actually begin to change the trajectory of our life and up until then, like you said, we just don’t know. Kids don’t know what’s happening. They’re not understanding what’s going on. They’re not sure of how to say it or who to tell, and you probably understand about when abuse happens, the lies, the isolation.

There’s threats and there’s different things that keep us track. The more we can have these conversations and train and empower and bring it into the light, we can help ourselves, but also the next generation.

Take a Stand – Set Boundaries in Your Own Life

Anne (16:41):
The first thing I’d say to our listeners is tell and keep telling until it stops. Take a stand. Number one, set boundaries in your own life. Then you’ll be way more able to help your children and these books really, really help. Thank you so much, Kimberly, for coming on the podcast today.

Kimberly (16:59):
I wanted to thank the listeners. The ways that you Could purchase a Say No and Tell book is at the new website. You can also find us on social media, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn via We Stand Guard. You might be interested to know that I’ve started a new blog series about real life anonymous stories of survivors, and I’m debunking myths around child sexual abuse.

So if you go to my website, you can sign up for the free Personal Safety Family Plan by sharing your email and you will get the Monthly to Bimonthly newsletter. That includes an introduction to that blog about the real life stories because I want to start a movement called #MeTooPrevention.

2 Comments

  1. TJ

    Jimmy Hinton is a pastor who ministered at the same church as his father, also a pastor had. When a member of the church told Jimmy that his father had molested her, he contacted law enforcement. His father is now in prison. Since then, Jimmy has worked to educate churches about how to keep safe. He also has a website with many articles. Most churches’ do not understand abusers and their policies are extremely inadequate.

    Reply
    • Anne Blythe

      Wow, what a hope filled story of someone who could take action, taking action. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

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