What is Safe Touches©?
Safe Touches is an evidence-based, age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention program designed for children in kindergarten through third grade. The classroom-based workshop is 45-minutes long, highly interactive and fun. Specially trained facilitators use puppets to teach children important body safety concepts that can help keep them safe from child sexual abuse. Children learn the difference between safe and not safe touches, the private parts of the body, and safety tools they can use if they ever receive a not safe touch or feel unsafe.
Following the workshop, each child receives the My Body Belongs to Me activity booklet to bring home. Available in English and Spanish, the booklet contains activities designed for children to complete with their parents and other caregivers. Through this shared interactive experience, caregivers highlight the lessons their children learned in the workshop and engage them in further conversations about body safety. Teachers are also provided with a link to a video of a recorded puppet skit and are encouraged to play the video for their students one week after the workshop. Teachers are given follow-up questions to engage the children and re-emphasize the safety tools. These follow-up activities create consistent messaging about safety from the adults in the children’s lives and help reinforce that there are trusted adults both at school and at home who they can go to if they ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
The NYSPCC facilitates the Safe Touches program throughout New York City, and has reached over 50,000 children since 2007. The NYSPCC is an approved vendor with the New York Department of Education. Through a generous grant from The Horace Mann School, all schools in the Bronx are able to receive workshops for their students free of charge. Safe Touches workshops have been adapted to be delivered virtually, so that students can learn the necessary tools needed to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse whether they are learning at home or school. Safe Touches workshops are also available in Spanish. Learn more about the development of our newest Safe Touches program for children with autism and similar disabilities below.
In 2014, The NYSPCC concluded a two-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to rigorously evaluate the Safe Touches program. Study data revealed that children who participated in a Safe Touches workshop demonstrated significant increases in their knowledge of sexual abuse prevention concepts after attending a workshop and retained knowledge at follow-up. More recently, data from a partnership with Pennsylvania State University (PSU) that replicated the program and brought workshops to more than 14,000 second graders in Pennsylvania from 2018 to 2020, showed that children significantly increased their knowledge, and that knowledge was maintained 12-months post intervention. In 2024, under another NIH study and in partnership with PSU and New York University, the knowledge gains of children who receive the virtual delivery of Safe Touches will be measured. The Safe Touches program is rated as evidence-based by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC).
The NYSPCC has partnered with other organizations to train professionals in the Safe Touches curriculum and model, allowing the program to be facilitated in communities across the United States and in the country of Greece. The Safe Touches Facilitation and Implementation Training offers schools and agencies who wish to purchase the program model and implement the Safe Touches program an in-depth training on all aspects of the program. The multi-day training will walk participants through implementation logistics, puppeteering, facilitation, fidelity monitoring and data collection. Schools and agencies will receive all of the materials needed to implement a Safe Touches program in their community, as well as training materials to train other Safe Touches facilitators at their school or agency.
Safe Touches for Children with Autism and Similar Disabilities
Through a generous grant from the New York Community Trust, The NYSPCC is expanding Safe Touches to reach children with autism and similar disabilities in special education classrooms across NYC. Research has indicated that children with disabilities are 2 to 4 times more likely to experience sexual abuse than their peers without disabilities.
The NYSPCC’s Training Institute worked with experts from the New York University Nest Support Project to modify the curriculum to meet the unique learning needs of children with autism and similar disabilities. Pilot workshops were conducted during Spring 2023 at four schools in 12 special education classrooms, reaching 90 elementary school students. Feedback from teachers, counselors, social workers, and aides was overwhelmingly positive, with 100% of respondents saying they would recommend the workshop to their colleagues. The NYSPCC has continued conducting these workshops at schools across the city during the 2023-2024 school year. Through this adapted program, the NYSPCC will fill an important community need, and more effectively teach the most vulnerable children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.