We recognize that teachers and school staff play an important role in the lives of their students and can make a positive impact by both creating trauma-informed classrooms and engaging in violence prevention efforts.
KCSARC is available to provide consultation, training, and support to educators within King County.
KCSARC has also created resources as a starting point for schools that seek information about sexual violence and its prevention. Find below key teaching points about boundaries, consent and healthy communications.
As an educator, you may be among the first trusted adults that a student seeks out to disclose abuse. The most important thing you can do before someone discloses is to be prepared with a supportive response and to know resources that are available in your community:
For middle/high school ages:
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are our personal guidelines for what we’re okay with and not okay with. They are limits that we set with other people. You have the right to set your own boundaries and have them be respected by others.
Boundaries are a necessary part of any friendship or relationship. A healthy relationship allows room for open and honest conversation about your limits and needs.
They can change
Our boundaries can be shaped by our experiences and responses to things, so it’s totally natural for them to change depending on the situation. Don’t feel guilty for adapting and changing your boundaries depending on how you feel.
Everyone’s different. You get to decide what boundaries you set with different people. It helps to take time to think and get to know yourself: what makes you feel loved and safe? What makes you feel uncomfortable?
Boundaries can apply to any situation: there are physical boundaries (like hugs), emotional (like expressing your feelings to someone), social (like how much personal information you share with a stranger versus a best friend).
They’re a two-way street
Everyone has the right to set and define their own boundaries. It’s up to each of us to understand and respect the boundaries of others, whether or not we understand the reasons for them. Don’t assume that you know what someone else is okay with– play it safe and ask!
How do we set and respect boundaries
Consent: Not just about sex
Consent is permission or agreement for something to happen. We practice consent in all aspects of our lives, with various people in our lives. It can look like asking someone if we can hug them, if we can borrow their pencil, or if we can give them a call to chat.
There’s always room for a “no”
Consent isn’t about getting a “yes” from someone. For consent to be meaningful, “yes” and “no” must be equal options. You shouldn’t force, pressure, or coerce a “yes” out of someone. Even if it might be hard or disappointing to hear a “no,” we need to be ready to respect any answer.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Even if you want to assume that someone is okay with something, it doesn’t hurt to play it safe and ask them. You have the right to change your mind at any time, and just because you say “yes” to something once, it doesn’t mean you’ve given someone permission the next time around. Think of it as checking in each and every time.
It’s important in all relationships
We all deserve to be treated with respect. Consent is foundational to any healthy relationship, whether with friends, family, acquaintences, or a partner. When we know that our choices and decisions matter, it helps us feel safe and comfortable. Asking what someone comfortable with is a great way to get to know someone better, too!
Boundaries are personal guidelines for what we are okay with and not okay with. Asking someone what their boundaries are is what consent is all about. By thinking through and creating awareness of our own boundaries, we can better understand the importance of other people’s boundaries. It’s understanding that we know what is best for ourselves.
Create a culture of consent
We can all work to normalize asking for consent in all situations. We can do this by asking others for consent and respecting their response, and when someone asks us for consent, we can give them a response and thank them for asking. If we overhear a situation in which someone is not respecting someone else, we can show that we don’t approve.
Consent can easily be practiced in daily routines…
Healthy communication, healthy relationships
In a healthy relationship, people should feel safe expressing their honest needs and boundaries. Conflicts come up, and it’s important to proceed thoughtfully and respectfully. All of us learn both healthy and unhealthy communication from others (in our life and in the media) so it’s important to give thought to how we interact with others.
It feels good to be listened to and given space to express ourselves, and this is something we can easily do for others. Give the speaker your undivided attention, don’t interrupt them, and give them cues that show you’re listening (like nodding, mhmm-ing and mirroring their tone).
Take space, make space
Anger, sadness, and fear are all normal emotions and you have the right to tell someone if they’ve harmed you. However, overwhelming emotions can make it difficult for you to express yourself in ways that you’d like to, and could potentially hurt someone else. It’s okay to hit pause on a conversation to take care of yourself and plan what you’re going to say and how.
Think about a time that you felt like you had a really great conversation with someone. How did that person make you feel? What did they do to make you feel heard, supported, and affirmed? Keep this in mind to consider how you can approach conversations with others.
This means being direct about our rights and our needs, while still considering the impact on others. This can be challenging, but it gets easier with practice. Make it your goal to communicate to be understood. Start sentences with “I” to state your feelings and experiences, rather than “You,” which can sound like an accusation or attack.
We all have the right to set boundaries around what we want to share and discuss. If someone doesn’t feel ready or comfortable having a conversation, it’s okay to see if there’s anything that you can do to make the situation more comfortable for them. Talking through “ground rules” or conditions for a conversation may feel weird at first, but it’s a good way to get to know someone better and help everyone feel safe.
Active listening and asserting yourself are healthy!
Creating trauma-informed classrooms
We know that educators and school staff play an important role in the lives of their students, and can make an especially positive impact on young people who have experienced trauma.
Take a look and share our Trauma-informed classrooms resources to help you and your colleagues understand, identify and respond to signs of trauma in a way that supports healing.
For elementary school ages:
Create trauma-informed classrooms with Launch Pad
It is possible that abuse has already occurred in a child’s life by the time they reach elementary school. Many young children have had little exposure to the world outside of their own family and may not understand what behaviors constitute abuse.
That’s why KCSARC developed Launch Pad.
Launch Pad helps educators and school staff support students who have been victimized by sexual violence, aid educators in creating trauma-informed classrooms, and increase violence prevention programming in elementary schools. By effectively supporting victims and working to create trauma-informed classrooms, schools can have tremendous impact on a young person’s healing process.