Nunavik students learn to tell a good touch from a bad one
“They know that it’s wrong"
A year and a half after it was first introduced to students in Quaqtaq, Nunavik’s Good Touch/Bad Touch program seems to be breaking the silence around sexual abuse in that Ungava Bay community.
The program was launched in 2012 to raise awareness and encourage dialogue about abuse among Nunavimmiut youth.
By talking about sexual touching, Lizzie Aloupa, who has now helped deliver the program twice to students in her community, says young people are much less shy about a subject that has long been a taboo subject across Nunavik.
“I’ve noticed that children in Quaqtaq understand now that they must tell if there’s been sexual touching,” said Aloupa, a prevention counsellor with the Kativik Regional Police Force, one of four agencies which delivers the program.
“They know that it’s wrong.”
For Aloupa, herself a victim of sexual abuse, that’s a positive step.
“We always understood that we couldn’t talk about sexual abuse, assaults or sexual anything when we were growing up,” she said. “So it’s been a learning experience for us too.”
Good Touch/Bad Touch is delivered to students from Grades One to Six in short daily sessions over a one-week period, where educators talk about “itsiguurnilunniq” — Inuktitut for sexual abuse.
Children learn safety rules like “It’s my body,” “I have the right to say no” and “It’s never my fault.”
They also receive a teddy bear wearing a tag of plastic pictures that can help them express their feelings along with a storybook to help reinforce the difference between good and bad touches.
The team that delivers Good Touch/Bad Touch in the classroom includes teachers, guidance counsellors, youth protection workers and the KRPF.
Those professionals are always present in case they have to document children’s claims of abuse.
“Because children disclose as we’re teaching,” Aloupa said. “It doesn’t happen all the time but it happens regularly.”
Since Good Touch/Bad Touch has only been delivered in three communities so far, this suggests many more children will reveal sexual abuse as the program reaches the rest of the region.
Good Touch/Bad Touch has visited Quaqtaq and Kuujjuaq twice, and made its first visit to Kangiqsujuaq in early October.
“We’re still waiting for other schools to invite us,” Aloupa said. “It’s a slow process, but we do it very carefully because of the subject.”
Good Touch/Bad Touch is based on a program developed in the U.S. and translated into Inuktitut.
In addition to the KRPF, it’s delivered by the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, the Kativik School Board and Tulattivik health centre.
The adoption of the program in Nunavik followed the 2007 report from Quebec’s human and youth rights commission. Its report on Nunavik’s youth protection system called for more abuse prevention and detection programs.