Valley woman fighting child abuse

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PHOENIX - Fifth-graders at Esperanza Elementary School in Phoenix are getting a unique lesson on how to avoid becoming a victim of physical and sexual abuse. Dr. Missy Gryder is leading the pack.

“What we are is a child prevention project where we go into Valley public schools and provide elementary-age children with seven hours of direct abuse prevention services,” Gryder said.

She started the HELPS project in 2007. Gryder’s lessons incorporate many hands-on activities.

“It teaches us about our private parts, our body,” 5th-grader Kimberly Vargas said. “No one can touch our body and our private parts.”

“She taught us to not be afraid to tell people about your feelings,” 5th-grader Roldan Lopes said. “You are special and there are some rules that you can do when someone is trying to hurt your body.”

Gryder knew what she was teaching in the classroom could also be beneficial for parents to use with their children at home so she created The Body Safety Box.

“The most important prevention technique that we can communicate to the community is open communication with your children, talking to your children about what is ok and what is not ok for them to experience,” Maricopa County children’s justice coordinator Robert Bell said.

Bell says that in 2009 there were more than 3 million reports of child abuse in the United States.

“The sad truth especially with sexual abuse is that it's never reported,” Bell said. “Even those that address it, it's a process and it's not an overnight process. Of the 21-year-olds that have reported sexual abuse 80 percent of them have at least one psychological disorder.”

It’s just one of the many issues Bell and Gryder hope changes. “This is happening to children so young,” Gryder said. “They just need to be taught and informed so they can be better protected.”