LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Harold's House's Ashley Cook is familiar face on Deep East Texas campuses, where she teach adults how to spot signs of child abuse.
However, now she is getting more comfortable with talking to children about what is right and wrong when it comes to other people touching them.
Cook and the staff at the Angelina County-based Harold's House have developed a teaching program for grade school children that they have taken across the region. The state requires educators to be properly trained on spotting and reporting abuse done to children. The state also requires reading materials to be placed in common areas of the schools. There is no requirement on giving any training to students.
"The big number one rule is no kid, no other big kid or grown up should ever touch you in a private area that makes you scared, hurts you, or is uncomfortable.," Cook said to a class of kindergartners. "That would be a bad touch."
The program started off small but has grown to be based in more schools.
"This is a new three-part, body-teaching lesson," Cook said. "We have taught thousands of children over the last couple of years."
While her talk on Monday was based for younger children, the talks have been more complex with older students.
"Last week, we were in Lovelady, and I was talking to sixth graders, and we talked a lot about technology and how that can be abuse to," Cook said. "Since it is something we created it is an easy curriculum to tweak based on what the children's needs are."
Cook believes while she is leading the discussions, she is not the only one involved with the process.
"Lufkin ISD and all the other schools in our area have been amazing with letting us come in," Cook said. "It is also on the educators and adults to help teach this. While we are aware of 'stranger danger' statistics show that 90-95 percent of abuse is done by somebody in that child's life. We need to teach them it is okay to find an adult they trust to talk to."
According to the Child Advocacy Centers of Texas, 65,000 confirmed cases of child abuse occur each year in the state. Those same statistics say that 185 children will be abused today. Sixteen percent of boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18. That number jumps to 25 percent in girls.
"Some children never hear what is a good touch and what is a bad touch," Cook said.
The staff with the schools that have implemented the teaching also seem to be on board with the positive effects it could have.
"We know that there may not be a grown up, a responsible grown up around all the time, so they need to know what to do to protect themselves," said Kurth Primary Counselor Reavie Blanton.
Cook added that with the program expanding, the non-profit is looking for new volunteers to help out. You can learn more by clicking here.