Non-profit program helps children guard against sex abuse

When Chu Fengling raised a particular question in front of a roomful of giggling second-graders, the whole class fell silent.

When Chu Fengling raised a particular question in front of a roomful of giggling second-graders, the whole class fell silent.

"What would you do if someone wanted to hug you, kiss you, or even touch your private parts?" Chu asked while giving a public lecture in Chengguan No.6 Primary School in Pingluo County, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

A few seconds later, answers emerged one after another: "Run away." "Shout for help." "Call the police."

Chu praised the students' answers but warned that if there was no one around when the assault occurred, their screams would not only be inaudible but would also irritate the abuser. "If there is no one around, you should stay calm and think of excuses to help you escape. If you really can't escape, quietly remember the appearance of the bad guy," she added.

Chu, 41, is a volunteer lecturer for Girls' Protection, a non-profit program under the Beijing All In One Foundation. Founded in 2013, the program was established to raise children's awareness of self-protection and guard them against sexual assault.

In China, discussions about sex are still considered taboo by many. Chinese parents are reluctant to talk to their children about sex-related topics, leaving children uninformed and more vulnerable to sexual abuse.

According to a survey conducted by Girls' Protection in 2019, 78.24 percent of teenagers lacked adolescent sexual health education, and 15.7 percent never received any adolescent sexual health-related education from their parents or teachers.

Calculations show that 223 cases of sexual assault against minors under the age of 18 were reported in China by news media in 2021 alone, with many more believed unreported.

"Sexual assault leaves a deep scar on both the child and the family. Our team is devoted to equipping children with self-protection knowledge and protecting them from sexual abuse," said Guo Rong, head of the Ningxia Sunflower Team, a local branch under Girls' Protection.

With 37 volunteer lecturers, the team provides tailor-made sexual assault prevention courses for both children and parents, as well as sex education courses for adolescents. The teaching plans of these courses are carefully designed by experts in child sex education, psychology, law and other fields.

As of March this year, the team had delivered over 2,100 public lectures, covering more than 100,000 people.

Eight years since she joined Girls' Protection, Guo is happy to find that more people have realized the importance of their activities and that more schools and organizations are inviting her team to give sexual assault prevention courses.

By the end of March, Girls' Protection had offered sexual assault prevention courses across the country, training tens of thousands of volunteers. In cooperation with related government departments, it also trains teachers across the country to give lectures on preventing sexual abuse. More than 7.6 million children and 740,000 parents have benefited from the lectures. Online training and lectures are also organized.

"No matter how much students can remember from the course, they will certainly learn an important lesson on how to protect themselves," said Liu Ruifang, vice president of Chengguan No.6 Primary School.

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