INDIO, Calif. - Counselors with HOPE Collaborative, a child abuse prevention program, are visiting schools in the Coachella Valley to help educate students, in grades Pre through 1st, about child abuse.
Mabel Ribas, chairperson for HOPE Collaborative was born and raised in the Coachella Valley. She says child abuse education isn't addressed enough. A HOPE study revealed that last year, in Riverside Count, 27,000 children reported neglect, 9,000 reported physical abuse, 85 emotional abuse, and 2,000 reported sexual abuse. Ribas says thousands of additional incidents go unreported.
"The children who are at most risk for child abuse are children ages 0-5, but we came across this amazing coloring book that does an exceptional job at addressing the topic of safe and unsafe touch. Some touches are okay, like holding hands, your parents cuddle when watching TV, then there's inappropriate touches, like hitting, pulling hair, and then it goes into the topic that some parts of our bodies are private and it explains that one should say 'no', 'don't touch me', 'run away', and report," Ribas said.
Staff at Herbert Hoover Elementary School in Indio say the HOPE program helps start conversations that are otherwise neglected.
"This is a critical age group. Children are just becoming aware of safety boundaries, so if we have those resources available to them and their families that strengthens their communication," said Eve Wehler, an Instructional Coach.
Ribas is hoping to expand the mission to more students across the Valley.
"If we can be proactive and have this coloring book and have this conversation with our children, when it occurs, that seed has already been planted that this isn't okay, 'it's not my fault', 'they're going to try to threaten me if I report', so they already have that identified safe person. So if it occurs, it's more likely they'll report it," Ribas said.
By the end of April, HOPE will have distributed 13,000 educational coloring books across the Coachella Valley.
To donate to the Coachella Valley sector of HOPE, call their district office at (951) 686-3750.
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