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Nunavik tackles child sexual abuse with new pilot project

“Good touch/Bad touch” reaches out to kids, parents in Kuujjuaq

By JANE GEORGE

Each student who participates in the


Each student who participates in the “Good touch/ Bad touch” program will receive this teddy bear that wears a tag which can say how it feels. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Next week Kindergarten and Grade One students at Pitakallak elementary school in Kuujjuaq will receive an introduction to the


Next week Kindergarten and Grade One students at Pitakallak elementary school in Kuujjuaq will receive an introduction to the “Good touch/ Bad touch” program. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

It's time to really break the silence around sexual abuse in Nunavik, says Lizzie Aloupa, who's facilitating a new pilot project to prevent and detect sexual abuse in the region. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)


It’s time to really break the silence around sexual abuse in Nunavik, says Lizzie Aloupa, who’s facilitating a new pilot project to prevent and detect sexual abuse in the region. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

KUUJJUAQ — When Lizzie Aloupa was growing up in Quaqtaq, where she was sexually abused, there was no one she felt she could turn to.

That’s something she hopes to change for today’s youth through her involvement in a new pilot project that aims to break the silence around sexual abuse.

“But when people say break the silence, they under-estimate how strong that silence is,” she said.

Through the pilot project based on the “Good touch/Bad touch” program, Aloupa, along with the Nunavik Regional Committee on Sexual Abuse Prevention, hopes to get Nunavimmiut, aged five and up, opening up more about sexual abuse.

It’s still a big problem in the region, Aloupa said: older people don’t know how to deal with the sexual abuses of the past and kids don’t realize they can get help if they experience sexual abuse today.

The whole discussion remains sensitive and “touchy” for many, she said.

Last week, Aloupa, the pilot project’s main facilitator, went on Kuujjuaq community radio to explain the project to parents.

Its goals include helping parents to better detect child sexual abuse and to learn how to react and accompany a child who has been sexually abused.

Parents in Kuujjuaq have already received information about the project in a trilingual (Inuktitut, French and English) booklet called “Together let’s protect our children,” which talks about issues like “should children be believed?” and “should I insist on knowing what happened.”

Aloupa has met with local workers in health and social services, schools and other organizations as well as with parents.

It’s not the first time Aloupa has reached out to the public to support the pilot project: it was tested out in her home community of Quaqtaq in March.

And, as in Quaqtaq, the program for Kuujjuaq includes three days of workshops at the elementary school.

Aloupa, who holds a Bachelor of Education degree from McGill University and is a former Kindergarten teacher, will visit Kuujjuaq’s Pitakallak elementary school next week.

Three sessions of 30 minutes each are scheduled there with Kindergarten students. Grade One students will see Aloupa for 40- minute sessions on three separate days.

During the sessions, Aloupa will talk to the kids about “itsiguurnilunniq” — the Inuktitut word used for sexual abuse.

Aloupa won’t be in the classrooms alone: she’ll have youth protection workers, Kativik Regional Police Force officer Sammy Snowball and the school counsellor there as back up. And she plans to introduce them to the children as people they can seek out for help.

Aloupa’s main focus will be on teaching the five safety rules of the Good-touch/Bad touch program, a prevention program targeting child abuse, neglect, and societal risks for Grades One to Six, which were developed more than 20 years ago in the United States:

1. It’s my body! I have the right to know all the safety rules.

2. The uh-oh feeling. If I feel like something’s wrong then I am right. Sometimes I need to ask questions.

3. I have the right to say no and get away.

4 I can tell and tell until someone believes me

5. It’s never my fault.

Among the materials used: a cuddly teddy bear wearing a tag of plastic pictures that can help kids express their feelings if they can’t find the right words and a storybook to help reinforce the difference between good and bad touches.

All children will also receive a teddy bear, a colouring book, a safety rules poster, a book called “The most important rule of all,” a tee-shirt with a happy smiling face that says “I’m precious” on the front and on the back, “It’s my body, I have the right to be safe,” and a resource card with numbers to call if they need help.

The plan is to expand the pilot project to every community in Nunavik. Next on the list is Kangiqsualujjuaq.

Aloupa hopes that a local teacher or interested individual in every community will decide to integrate the program into their teaching.

As more openness about sexual abuse develops in Nunavik, Aloupa remains optimistic that the wall of secrecy around sexual abuse will finally be broken.

“We must deal with our sexual abuse issues,” said Aloupa, whose first training to deal with sex abuse issues dates back to the late 1990s.

Adults have also responded to the talk about sexual abuse, coming forward in some instances to report sexual abuse that happened years ago — but which can still be treated as a crime.

The new focus on sexual abuse follows the 2007 report from Quebec’s human and youth rights commission. Its devastating report on Nunavik’s youth protection system called for — among other actions — more abuse prevention and detention programs for youth.

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