Annual assembly warns students about child abuse


Yesh Nikam , Staff Writer

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) will be presenting a workshop on child sexual abuse prevention for the seventh straight year in the Recital Hall this Friday.

The NYSPCC’s goal is to respond to the needs of abused and neglected children by providing counseling, legal, and educational services, according to its website. The workshop aims to increase students’ knowledge of child sexual abuse and give them information and tools to keep them safe, an outline given to the school from the NYSPCC said.

This year, the workshop will review the dynamics of child sexual abuse by focusing on grooming, which is when perpetrators of sexual assault gain the trust of their potential victims and keep these interactions secret, NYSPCC Director of the Training Institute Annie Costello said. They will also cover the topic of consent as it relates to both child sexual abuse and peer relationships.

The workshop is mandatory for ninth graders, but new students or students who were absent for the workshop in their ninth grade year must also participate, Upper Division Dean of Students Michael Dalo said.

Amelia Resnick (9), who will attend the presentation this week, thinks it is beneficial for students to be informed about sexual assault. “We should be aware of it and be knowledgeable on it in case we are in a situation like that,” she said.

The school first invited the NYSPCC in 2012, after news that teachers had abused students at the school years ago was released, Upper Division Director of Counseling & Guidance Dr. Daniel Rothstein ’77 said. “The school decided to take steps to help ensure it would not happen again. One of these steps is education. The more students know about sexual abuse, the more they know what warning signs to look for in interactions with adults, and what to do to protect themselves, as well as how to help a friend,” he said. “Unfortunately sexual abuse between adults and minors continues to occur frequently in the U.S. and throughout the world. News reporting and education are important steps to raise awareness and encourage people to report it.”

The presentation has naturally evolved over the years through the incorporation of feedback or taking into account current events such as the #MeToo movement in order to best meet the needs of students. These real-life examples are then used to reinforce safety concepts taught throughout the workshops, Costello said.
Through lecture, video, and group discussion, students learn how to protect themselves from sexual abuse, the outline stated.

Kush Malhotra (11), who participated in the event in 2017, felt that the overall presentation was effective in teaching students ways to prevent sexual assault. “The use of videos were especially helpful in facilitating discussion and conveying important information about a touchy subject,” he said.

However, Alexis Fry (11), who also attended the event in 2017, took issue with the NYSPCC’s inclusion of a video that likened sexual consent to tea in a slightly comedic manner. The video will still be included in this year’s presentation.“Rather than presenting sexual assault as a serious matter, it made it seem like a joke. I do think that that kind of content is okay for educating younger children, but certainly is inappropriate for educating high schoolers about sexual assault, which happens more than is realized during high school,” she said.

Regardless, Fry felt that the presentation is one of many ways the school continues to address its history of sexual assault. “As a student, I always know that I can walk into counseling and guidance and that my teachers will be understanding no matter what,” she said.

Damian Stellings (10) believes that this workshop is one example of the many things the school does to educate students about child abuse as these assemblies show the importance of these issues and help raise awareness for them, he said.
“Although these are difficult topics to think about and discuss, I think talking about it, having accurate information, and learning ways to protect oneself and others makes people feel safer in our community,” Rothstein said.