Programs that Work
Who Do You Tell?
Healthy and Safe Children
Children not experiencing physical, psychological or emotional abuse
Age of Child
Early Childhood (0-8)
Middle Childhood (9-12)
Type of Setting
Type of Service
Type of Outcome Addressed
Child Abuse and Neglect
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
The "Who Do You Tell?" Child Sexual Abuse Education Program was designed to teach elementary school aged children basic concepts to help them prevent and protect themselves from sexual abuse. The program aims to help students to learn to distinguish between inappropriate and appropriate types of touching. In addition, students are also instructed on methods to communicate instances of abuse to trusted adults.
Originally developed by the Calgary Sexual Assault Centre in 1983, the program was taken over and revised by the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) in 1995. Two educators from CCASA present the program to groups of 15 to 30 elementary school aged children in their regular school classrooms during school hours. The program is conducted in two 45-minute sessions on consecutive days. In addition, parents are invited to attend an informational session that addresses program content and offers advice on how to speak with children about the covered topics. Teachers in participating schools also receive training on how to proceed should abuse be disclosed to them.
The program’s emphasis is on defining child sexual abuse in a way that is meaningful to children and how to say "no" to activities or instances of physical touching that are inappropriate and make children feel uncomfortable. The program also addresses what constitutes appropriate physical touching so that the children will not become confused or anxious. A variety of modalities are employed in the instruction, including discussions, visuals, videos and role-playing. The content of the tools are adapted to be age appropriate. The role-playing dynamic of the program allows children to practice and reinforce the skills they are being taught, and students are encouraged to ask questions throughout the program. Following completion of the program, children are given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with program educators to discuss any issues or concerns participation in the program may have raised.
The program is designed for use with elementary school-aged children. Three versions of the program for grades K-2, grades 3 and 4, and grades 5 and 6, each with specific age-appropriate content and materials allow the program to be appropriate for use with a wide age group.
Elementary school aged children at two Catholic schools in Calgary, Canada took part in an evaluation of the program. Eighty-eight percent of the participants were white. Approximately half came from two-parent families. The sample included children in grades 1 through 6.
An evaluation took place in 1996, with 231 students from two Catholic elementary schools. The grade level of the children ranged from first through sixth. Students within each school were randomly assigned to participate in the program (117 of the students), or not participate (114 of the students). The experimental and control groups were matched based on age.
Students were assessed prior to the start of the program using the 33-item Children’s Knowledge of Abuse Questionnaire-Revised (CKAQ-R). The test asked questions to determine students’ level of knowledge of concepts to prevent sexual abuse; and, in particular, their understanding of inappropriate and appropriate touching was evaluated. The two groups were fairly well matched on pre-intervention test scores, with the control group in grades 2 and 4 slightly outscoring the test group on the inappropriate-touch subscale, and the control group in grades 2 and 3 slightly outscoring the test group on the appropriate-touch subscale. Students were retested within two weeks of program completion. Students in grades 1 and 2 were assessed on an individual basis, whereas the test was administered to higher grades as a group. Scores are given for each grade group. Results for inappropriate and appropriate touching knowledge are presented separately.
In addition, a survey was administered to participants’ parents to determine their perceptions of their child’s reaction to the program and measure for any negative effects from the program (such as increased nightmares, recoiling from or suspicion of all touching from adults, and other such behaviors). Caution should be exercised in drawing conclusions based on the parent survey, however, due to the low level of parent participation and response. Only 27 parents (21.4%) attended the program’s parent information session, and only 126 parents returned surveys.
Key Evaluation Findings
The research by Leslie M. Tutty (1997) found the following:
- It is difficult to determine the statistical significance of changes in test scores because of the small sizes of the individual grade subgroups. Subgroups ranged from 17 to 24 students.
- Nearly all students in both the control and test populations experienced gains in their appropriate-touch subscale scores from pre- to posttesting, regardless of whether they received the intervention.
- The grade 1 control group is an exception to this finding – the grade 1 control group experienced a decrease in scores on the appropriate touch subscale.
- Participation in the program significantly increased students’ level of knowledge of inappropriate touching and slightly increased their knowledge of appropriate touching.
- Younger children experienced a larger gain in test scores on the inappropriate-touch subscale, with the largest gains seen in grades 1 and 2.
- At both pre- and post-testing, all children (in both the control and experiment groups) in higher grades had a significantly greater level of knowledge and understanding about inappropriate touching and a slightly greater level of knowledge and understanding about appropriate touching than did children in the lower grades.
- Parents of participating children reported no negative reactions to the program on the part their children, such as an increase in the children’s nightmares or discomfort with affection from family members.
Public or private elementary schools, social service or health educators, state and local child abuse prevention agencies, and sexual assault agencies.
The program has been funded by Family and Community Social Services, a municipal preventative social service agency.
- The curriculum and materials are tailored to the appropriate developmental level of the participants. Three versions of the program are available for different age groups.
- The interactive component of the curriculum allows children to practice the skills on which they are being instructed.
The "Who Do You Tell" curriculum is composed of two 45-minute sessions, presented on two consecutive days. Three versions of the program tailor content to the appropriate developmental level of the recipient group according to age. Prior to the program, teachers at participating schools are given training that addresses appropriate response and action should abuse be disclosed. In addition, parents are invited to attend an evening information session that provides an overview of the program and information on child sexual abuse in general, how to speak with a child about abuse, and available resources should abuse occur.
The curriculum is administered by educators from the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault. The first day of the program involves an exploration of subject related definitions, such as what is "sexual abuse," which are the "private parts" of the body, and what constitutes "appropriate" and "inappropriate" touching. Educators lead a discussion on how and when children should say "no" and also inform students about what resources are available to them and the appropriate and available paths of action to take should abuse occur. The day is concluded with an interactive session, allowing children to ask questions, discuss topics, and practice the skills covered in the course.
After a review of material covered during the first day, the second day’s session addresses the contextual issues of child sexual abuse – when and where abuse can occur, and possible perpetrators. Children are again given the opportunity to ask questions and practice skills through skits and role-playing.
The program is implemented by educators from the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault. All program staff have social service backgrounds, with knowledge of and/or experience working with children and families affected by sexual and domestic violence.
The program is offered to area schools at no cost; however, donations are accepted.
Issues to Consider
This program received a "promising" rating. Although the research yielded positive outcomes, the evaluation was based on a relatively small and homogenous sample, and the outcomes analysis was based on even smaller subgroups of the population. The small sample size makes it difficult to draw strong and reliable conclusions from the data. In addition, follow-up was conducted only two weeks after the completion of the program. This is particularly significant given the young age of the participants and the extremely short duration of the curriculum (a total of 90 minutes over two days). The study by Tutty (1997) cites prior research that supports the notion that longer exposure to prevention programs yields more positive and longer-lasting results. Given that, it is reasonable to wonder whether demonstrated increases in knowledge would persist over time. Without the availability of longitudinal data, this question cannot be satisfactorily answered.
Of note, whereas the program has an impact on levels of knowledge regarding sexual abuse, it does not reduce the number of children exposed to or experiencing sexual abuse. Although children may use the knowledge they gain to assist themselves in reducing their individual risk of experiencing sexual abuse, the program does not in any way have an impact on the occurrences of abuse itself, nor does it measure whether the evidenced reduction in risk translates into a reduction of actual occurrences of abuse.
Annemarie Koszegi, Program Manager
"Who Do You Tell?"TM Program
Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse
YWCA Mary Dover Building
7th Floor, 320 - 5th Avenue SE
Calgary, Alberta T2G 0E5
TTY: (403) 508-7888
Phone: (403) 237-6905
Program plans and a training package are available from Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault.