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Warning

This post contains sensitive topics for readers including abuse. If you have issues reading about such topics, please stop reading now.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse who needs help, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (or 800-656-4673) or chat with a trained professional at rainn.org

If you believe you or a family member is in danger, please call 9-1-1

I mulled over writing this. I wanted to hit this topic eventually, but not this early. Local current events decided to throw a curve ball. I will be addressing this from multiple angles, so please read through the post entirely before getting angry about any one thing. I have no quips and this post is not humorous, what-so-ever.

The current allegation prompting this post.

In our ISD, a junior high SPED (special needs education) teacher was arrested on allegations of sexual abuse towards one of her students. According to the sheriff’s office, the SPED teacher is accused of having oral sex with a minor in the back of a car. She is charged with improper relations with a student and indecent fondling. She has since been placed on administrative leave. According to news sources, she admitted to a friend she gave a student oral sex.

The news is explicit in details. I don’t feel I need to be. I’m not posting the links to the news source unless I absolutely have to because this story isn’t not the main point of this post. I’m also trying for some semblance of anonymity.

There is a mixed response in our community. Some are behind the family and awaiting the investigation. Others are upset with the ISD for taking action and are angry with the family, making disparaging remarks against the victim because he is in SPED and/or because they’ve known the teacher previously. (And the fact she previously was teacher of the year).

The teacher recently posted bail and we are all awaiting the investigation.

Emotions are running high for everyone right now. I completely understand both sides… let me tell you a little story:

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A long Long time ago, in a land far far away

I was in college and I played in several semi-pro bands and orchestras for fun. A fresh-out-of-college band teacher moved to the area. Some of my fellow band mates, (a couple of which were my old band directors and other directors in neighboring towns) took it upon themselves to “set us up”. So we hung out quite a bit because we had a lot in common and we were only a few years apart.

A year or two later, allegations came out because officials found kiddie porn on his school computer. We were all in disbelief, but we waited for the investigation… and lo and behold… he was guilty. There was suspicions of other things, but they were never confirmed.

Statistics

RAINN:

  • 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault by an adult
  • 82% of all victims under the age of 18 are female
  • Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault

WHO:

  • Children with disabilities are 3.6 times more likely to be victims of physical violence than children without disabilities
  • Children with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than children without disabilities
  • Children with mental or intellectual impairments are 4.6 times the risk of sexual violence than non-disabled peers.

Candor Health Education:

  • The National Crime Victimization Survey concluded an average of  59,000 adults with disabilities are raped or sexually assaulted each year
  • Approximately 50% of all adults with intellectual disabilities will have endured ten or more incidents of sexual abuse in their lifetimes.

What can I do?

Parents, if your child (special needs or typical) is suddenly acting differently, please investigate. We have been lucky as to so far when we see a change it’s been due to bullying. I’d like to say our ISD has been awesome about nipping it in the bud.

Children don’t make up things that are sexual. They don’t know sexual. Unless they are exposed to sex, you can almost guarantee the story is real. Exposure to TV/magazines and older siblings is what makes that water muddy. Older children may be exposed through class mates. But by asking open ended questions, you can usually get down to it pretty quick.

If you are unsure, you can always ask for help. Counselors are available whether through your own ISD or referred by your doctor. Sometimes your child would feel more comfortable talking to someone else, and that’s ok! Encourage your child to talk to anyone who is a “safe person”. This will also make them more receptive to talking to you in the future.

How can I talk to my own child?

The ARC is an advocacy group that has many helpful things online including media. It isn’t just for children, so if you are taking care of an adult minor, there are resources there as well. You can use these videos and informational sheets as a link to start a conversation…

Fact: There were close to 3 million children with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities according to the Census Bureau in 2010. Often times, these children are excluded from sex education, including talks about puberty.

Candor Health Education

How many times have we seen a toddler talking about a baby growing in their mommy’s tummy? A toddler has already been given the basics of “The Talk”, yet many believe children with cognitive abilities behind their age, say equaling that of a 4-8 year old, doesn’t deserve the respect of knowing what is happening to them. Many ISDs won’t even send permission slips home to the families letting them make the ultimate decision.

Most children with disability will still go through puberty. They will still have the same sexual urges as their peers. However, without proper education, when they act on these urges they can often find themselves at a higher risk of abuse, can hurt someone else because they don’t understand consent, and a plethora of other complications.

The TALK:

There are resources available for you. I will list a few down below, hopefully you will be able to find what works best for you. Please understand this is just a handful.

Tip: Refer to body parts by their name or as “private parts” if you are uncomfortable. There are too many cases going missed because children have reported things like: “Johnny touched my ‘cookie’.” This is a common complaint I hear from police and teachers.

NameBenefitCon or ControversyFor Whom?
Sexuality Across the Lifespan: for Children and Adolescents with Developmental DisabilitiesEasy to read, includes photos, broken down by age groupParents and Caregivers
Sexuality Across the Lifespan….same as aboveEducator edition
King County (Seattle, WA) FLASH lesson plan for SPEDVery detailed, adheres to the Characteristics of an Effective Health Education Curriculum and is aligned to both the CDC’s National Health Education Standards for Sexual Health and the National Sexuality Education StandardsControversy:
Science based, not religion based, although it teaches to respect ALL backgrounds
The primary focus is educators, but parents can use it.
Woodbine HouseLots of self help books for special needsCon:
You have to find and buy the books
All
Puberty by MARSH mediaPamphlets and media about puberty written for/about special needs kids, includes HYGEINE and comes in SpanishChildren, Caregivers, and Nurses
Personal SPACE (Safety, Planning, Awareness, Choice, Empowerment)
A Violence Prevention Program for Women
This class is designed with older teens (18+) and adult women in mind. It readdresses sexual education for special needs for adult women.Con:
There is a list of locations on pg 139. Unsure if they offer the Personal SPACE class.
Educators, although a caregiver could probably touch up on subjects covered in the lesson
Amazon.comBooks and ebooks galore. And they have tons of reviews by people who have read them. Not freeE for Everyone
What’s Happening to Me80’s Animation about puberty. Very educational. It explains everything in detail.Controversy:
Everything… It leaves nothing to the imagination. And lots of cartoon nudity, please watch BEFORE you show your kids.
Con: Because it is old, some of the info may be out of date (like chocolate causes zits).
It’s an excellent tool if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your kid and you don’t want to censor anything.
Where Did I come FromAnother 80’s Animation about where babies come from; starting with conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. Controversy:
Cartoon nudity galore once again. Watch BEFORE you show your kids.
Con: And again, some things are out of date, but this can open the door to a discussion.
See above.
in no particular order

Should you not feel comfortable speaking with your child, reach out. Chances are you know someone who works in education or healthcare who can do the talk. Please don’t forget your local health department. A lot of people don’t know many of them offer services for having the talk, even with non-special needs parents. This is a service most commonly used with single parents of an opposite gendered child.

If you have a social worker or case worker, they may also be able to find resources local to you. Community centers sometimes have education for special needs individuals.

If you cannot find anything in your area, you have the right to request it.

And how does this pertain to games?

Tiddlywinks and Hijinks was primarily formed to talk about games and other items for special needs families. Other than sound like I’m on my soap box, how does this pertain to my main goal?

Gaming Group Safety

Many have no idea what this means. This primarily pertains to the older kids. A gaming group is when a group of friends or like minded people form a (for lack of a better word) group with the intent of playing games. A prime example of this is Dungeons & Dragons.* This has been in the news multiple times recently and I will share some of my experiences.

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I’ll keep this short: I got into D&D in high school. I initially played at school with some of my friends. I was invited over to some of the group’s house for some more extensive gaming. I went, was groped (no game was set up, needless to say), left, and I never played with that group ever again. I ended up using my character sheets on D&D Tactics for Sony PSP.

As an adult with children, I thought I found a group. I spelled out what I was looking for, explained I was not looking for any kind of relationship, it wasn’t an issue. Right before the first gathering, the DM (Dungeon Master) started propositioning me for sexual favors. He had been with his live in girlfriend for over 10 years….

There are some D&D DMs who take their torture of the gamers too far. It’s not uncommon to put the players through challenging trials and tribulations. Now, back in March of 2020 in Far Verona Season 2 (a D&D channel), the DM had a NPC (non-playable character) sexually assault one of the players. Let’s be clear: the player did not consent, the player’s character did not consent, none of the players approved of sexual role play in the game and they were all very disturbed by this (several quit Far Verona before they were even cancelled.

Unspoken but understood rules of roleplaying games:
  • Role playing games are built on trust. If your DM violates you or your child’s trust pertaining to basic human rights, consider quitting the group, because anyone who would violate human rights is likely to do it again and is unpredictable.
  • DMs hold the power. Other than the ability to quit, a player has 1 character. A DM has unlimited NPCs and monsters at their disposal. A responsible DM will not abuse that power, but others…

If your special needs or non special needs child is wanting to get involved in D&D or ANY RPG group, please go with them, especially in the beginning. If they are going alone at some point, make sure they have support person(s) to help prevent predators or who can help report if anything happens.

*All my negative comments are not about Dungeons & Dragons the game, but are instead about the players who decided to use D&D as their means to be predatory. Please understand this.

In close:

My platform is always going to be in favor of education. This is why I provide so many facts and statistics.

Listen to your child.

Be sure to be an advocate for your child or person; you know them best.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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