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Alli Neal: Founder and Executive Director of Revved Up Kids

Revved Up Kids is on a mission to keep kids safe from sexual predators by equipping them with the information and skills they need to stay safe. Revved Up Kids teaches everything from self defense tactics, to online safety tips, to situational awareness to ensure that kids of all ages are prepared in dangerous situations. Learn more about Revved Up Kids here!

What is the story behind Revved Up Kids?

I had a calling to do this work. A lot of people in the sexual abuse prevention field are in it because of personal experience, but that wasn’t my story. I didn’t know much about the topic and I had to learn everything I could before opening the doors in 2010. The original goal was to teach personal safety and self defense and it started as for profit where people paid tuition. Three and a half years in, the phone was ringing off the hook from people in low income neighborhoods who didn’t have the money to pay our tuition. That’s when we transitioned to being a nonprofit, because we don’t want tuition to be a barrier.

How are you educating and training kids to protect themselves from predators?

We offer over 20 programs for young children, teenagers, and parents. Every program has the goal of helping kids be equipped to help themselves. When we train little kids, it’s about helping parents open a very challenging conversation that they aren’t comfortable with. We talk to kids about who unsafe people are and what they should do if someone tries to hurt them. It’s empowering for the kids to learn self defense tactics and know that they have permission to use them if they need to. With the older kids, we help them learn how to assess risk of sexual assault or violent attack, how to integrate good personal safety habits, and how to have safety on their radar when making choices, especially when it comes to relationships and online safety.

Since safety practices often start in the home, what are things parents can do to protect their children?

Many parents are fearful that having these conversations will make their children scared of everything, so they end up not talking about it at all. We use very nuanced, sensitive language to ensure that it’s not a scary topic for kids. We talk to parents about naming the private parts their correct names instead of cute little nicknames, because it can cause shame when kids don’t know the proper terminology of their body parts. Parents should make clear to their children that a predator isn’t always someone selling candy in a white van, it’s often a neighbor, a friend, or someone in the family’s life. It should be an ongoing, comfortable conversation so that kids feel safe talking about it in the event that something happens to them.

What has been the best part of starting Revved Up Kids?

For me, it’s all about the training programs with the children. It’s not easy to be a nonprofit, but the training portion never feels like work. It makes the whole process worth it. In a room of teenage girls, I often ask how many of them are there by choice and it’s normally 10% of them. By the end of the session, all of them are so happy that they participated and frequently tell me about how much they learned. When we hear about kids who have escaped assault because of tools we taught them, it’s really incredible. We’re doing the best we can to keep kids safe, and I know our work is effective in reaching that goal.


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