Most of the time, children do not tell anyone when they are abused. They are afraid, they are ashamed, maybe their abuser threatened them? They feel responsible for what happened, and sometimes they simply don’t how or who to tell.
So ELI must reach out to these children and we need to do it in a way which they'll understand.
ELI has designed several musicals and dramatic programs that are performed in schools throughout Israel. These programs are designed to educate children of all ages groups to understand what abuse is, and their right to be free of abuse, however the message is delivered in an entertaining format which ELI has dubbed, Edutainment. The programs are performed by actors and actresses who are also social workers. In addition to the performances for children, ELI’s staff meets with and trains school teachers and counselors on how to recognize and report potential incidences of abuse.
A nine year old girl, Gabi, was called to testify after she narrowly avoided being molested by her friend's father one night when she was staying at their house overnight. Upon being asked by the judge, "how did you know what to do?" Gabi exclaimed: "What do you mean? Yael told me!" Yael is the name of one of the puppets in the presentation Gabi participated in just weeks earlier. Upon being interviewed later, the policeman who was investigating the case said that he had never seen a girl that age so prepared for this type of situation.
So that the children can participate in the program, ELI sends a CD with the music contained in the performances weeks before the performances actually occur. Another example of the success of this program is in the story of a girl who sang the songs from the show when her parents returned from a night out, telling them that her baby sitter had done something wrong.
Last year over 90,000 of Israel’s children saw one of ELI’s prevention programs.
There are many examples of children who, after seeing the prevention program, alerted their parents or school teachers about abuse they had suffered at the hands of friends or relatives. ELI's Abuse Prevention Programs have been adapted many times to accommodate various audiences including children of immigrant populations, Ultra Orthodox children and Arab children.
For years the entire world and Israel were pushing to build awareness about child abuse however, special needs were left behind.
Without question, the most vulnerable group of children are those with special needs. ELI contends that special needs children are abused at a rate ten times that of non special needs children. Special needs children may not understand what constitutes abuse. If they do, they may not know how to stop it. Often if they try to report an incident of abuse, they are ignored, or misunderstood.
I told my mother and she didn't listen. I told my teachers, and they didn't listen, and you tell me I'm the deaf one?
-Dafna, a 16 year old girl, to an ELI therapist.
Nearly three years ago, ELI was approached by the JDC and asked to lead a pilot program to address abuse of Special Needs children. In conjunction with the JDC and many local agencies who cater to special needs children, ELI created a program which launched in 13 cities in Israel with concentrations of special needs children. The program, led by ELI therapists with expertise in working with special needs children, educates parents, teachers, professionals, and para- professionals who work with special needs children as to what constitutes abuse, how to recognize it, and how to report it. ELI also works with special needs children themselves in order to teach them how to avoid abuse, and what to do if they suspect that they have been abused.