April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Project SARAH Takes a Stand for Safer Kids and Families

Summer is over and children are back at school. While many families have been busy shopping for supplies and anticipating busy nights of homework, teachers have been busily preparing for incoming students. In a growing number of communities across New Jersey, this school staff preparation now includes critical safety training from Project SARAH around protecting students from the impacts of violence, abuse,and inappropriate behavior.

Project SARAH is the New Jersey program that works to overcome cultural, legal and religious barriers confronting Jewish people affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse. Collaborating closely with schools and their teachers throughout the state, Project SARAH helps educate and promote awareness of fundamental child protection principles that help shore up the safety of families and communities.

It’s understandable to believe—or wish—that training like this isn’t really necessary. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that one in four girls and one in 13 boys have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood. Although statistics vary, we know that child sexual abuse often goes underreported, so the actual numbers are likely much higher. Further, research shows that over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the abused child or the child’s family. No community or demographic is immune to the impact of abuse. That’s why it’s critical that all adults, especially those who regularly work with children, know the possible signs of abuse and how to respond to children who disclose they’ve experienced inappropriate or unsafe behavior.

Project SARAH recognizes that schools and their staff offer a safe haven for children. This means that teachers may be the first place to which an abused child turns. And since abuse is often disclosed more subtly, through hints or changes in behaviors, teachers who spend several hours a day with their students building rapport, might witness potential red flags that others might miss.

We at Project SARAH train teachers to recognize signs of abuse, while using their years of experience and knowledge of age-appropriate behaviors to be aware of any questionable actions or behaviors. Even the most experienced teacher might feel uneasy or unsure about how to proceed if something feels “off” about a student, or especially if a student discloses the fact that they’re being abused. At Project SARAH, we understand how challenging this may be and work together with the school and their entire staff to teach them how to appropriately respond to any student, as well as how to move forward in ways that will protect both the students and the staff.

School teachers and staff routinely share that Project SARAH’s comprehensive safety training leaves them feeling equipped to identify and respond to possible abuse. However, when situations or questions come up that feel murky or questionable, Project SARAH is available to consult, offering further guidance and clarity for school staff. Together, Project SARAH and your school faculty, will continue to work together to ensure that every child has a safe and fun year in school.

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There’s still much to be done to make our schools, camps and communities safer places. We need your help to expand our reach and have an even greater impact. That’s why we’re hosting our first gala evening, Take A Stand, on October 30, at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center, honoring Rabbi Andrew and Dr. Sara Markowitz.

Enjoy standout inspiration and song with the famed “Rav Gav” Friedman and Eli Schwebel, a lavish dessert reception and much more while supporting those affected by abuse and domestic violence and helping prevent future cases.

Be there, take a stand and know you’ve done your real part in changing and saving lives. Purchase your tickets at www.TimeToTakeAStand.org

Yael Baldinger, LSW is a Project SARAH presenter and therapist who works with clients affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse. Project SARAH can be reached at [email protected] and (973)777-7638 ext 300.

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