From Spaceships to Safe Spaces: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Service
Twenty teardrop-shaped, “spaceships” maneuver around a classroom. Each ship, a hula hoop made of PVC pipe and duct tape is held with two hands, around the body at waist height, by a child. Silently they wander around the room trying to avoid contact with other spaceships. They pause for instruction. With a show of hands they indicate whether moving around the room without talking was easy or challenging. The spaceships begin moving again, but now the occupants can communicate; the children say, “excuse me” when they need to pass each other and some ask for more space. Again the spaceships pause. Who thought talking was easier than not talking? Who thought not talking was easier? The exercise continues. How many people fit in a space ship? (One). How can you share space? (The facilitator demonstrates how to overlap the hoops after asking the other person to share space). The small pilots practice asking to share space and twenty kindergarten voices chant in unison:
“This is my personal space.
I am the boss of my personal space.
I decide who gets to share my space with me.
This is my personal space.
I am the boss of my personal space.”
Using imagination, duct tape and a bit of PVC piping, the concepts of verbal communication, non-verbal cues and the importance of personal space are physically manifested for children 4-8 years of age to successfully introduce self-empowerment and advocacy. The Space Ships curriculum is one of the prevention education programs designed and presented by 2015 grantee Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Service (SAPARS) in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin County schools.
SAPARS school-based prevention education program works with all grade levels to help create safer school environments by providing both classroom educational presentations to students and specialized training to help teachers and administrators recognize and respond to sexual harassment, acquaintance rape, and child sexual abuse.
In addition to their school-based initiatives, SAPARS helps create safe spaces for survivors of sexual violence through community programs including a 24-hour response line, individual advocacy, support groups, outreach to underserved populations, accompaniment and assistance though the legal system, assistance with obtaining Protection From Abuse Orders and accompaniment to medical facilities and law enforcement agencies after an assault.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services serves over 195,000 people in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin Counties and provides prevention education in 72 schools. With seventeen staff members and a group of committed volunteers, SAPARS works to prevent and eliminate sexual violence and promote healing and empowerment for people of all genders and ages who are affected by rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, stalking and sexual harassment—and your time, energy and expertise can help. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact the SAPARS office nearest you or email (http://sapars.org/contact-forms/contact-sapars.php).
 2012 census estimates.
Posted 01.29.2016 under News and Resources