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Richmond Times Dispatch – “Children’s play continues to save lives”

Richmond Times Dispatch – October, 13, 2013 – Stacy Hawkins Adams Stacy@stacyhawkinsadams.com

Theater has the power to change a child’s life, especially a child who is being abused.

Actress Louise Keeton routinely experiences how her role as a soft-spoken sexually abused girl named Emma resonates with elementary-age children and leads those in troubling situations to seek help.

Keeton is a member of the professional cast that presents a child sexual abuse prevention play called “Hugs and Kisses” at schools throughout Virginia every year.

She and other actors receive training from Prevent Child Abuse Virginia to prepare for questions or disclosures they may receive from children who view the carefully scripted play.

“We’re trained to make sure we don’t say anything that could be harmful or confusing,” Keeton said. “We are purely there to make sure children get the help they need and understand that they are allowed to speak up for themselves.”

Statistics on how many children have reported abuse after a performance are not available; however, according to Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and the Virginia Department of Social Services (who partner with Virginia Repertory Theatre to present the play), about 1.5 million children have seen the play since its 1983 launch.

While some parents and school officials worry that exposing kindergarten through fifth-graders to the topic of sexual abuse is unwise, Keeton says not giving them an opportunity to learn the difference between good, bad and secret touching is a greater risk.

After each of the 300 performances she has participated in since 2011, at least five children have approached cast members or others identified as trusted adults to share concerns, she said.  READ FULL ARTICLE

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