Every 15 minutes, a child is abused in Australia and it’s a statistic that isn’t improving.
So what can we do about this horrifying issue? Put our heads in the sand and hope and pray it never happens to our kids? Protective Behaviour expert Holly-ann Martin from Safe4Kids has a different and more proactive approach.
Holly-Ann has been teaching and advocating for children for over 30 years with protective education in schools, helping prevent sexual abuse by empowering children and giving them a vocabulary to protect themselves. So where and when do you start?
Holly-Ann recommends starting protective education by age 3 and that conversations about pornography need to happen by age 6 at the latest.
“I don’t call it pornography with 6-year-old’s, I call them private pictures and private movies but there is so much pornography on YouTube and even YouTube for Kids isn’t 100% safe so we talk about private pictures and private movies and what to do if you see those sorts of things.”
“For 2 and 3 year old’s, it’s as simple as teaching them the correct anatomical names for their body parts and teaching them that nobody should be touching you under your nappy, if somebody touches you there come and tell Mummy, go and tell Daddy, tell Grandma, tell somebody that you trust.”
Holly-Ann wants parents to teach children about consent and she’s not talking about consent and sex, but instead, talking about consent and body autonomy.
“We can model and teach kids that they’re the boss of their bodies from a very early age without it being frightening or scary. It’s about teaching kids that they’re the boss of their bodies.”
There’s so many things that parents can do without frightening their children including setting up a Safety Team and teaching children to trust their ‘early warning signs’.
“Our early warning signs are our bodies way of telling us that we feel unsafe. So, it’s our fight, flight, freeze or faint response and humans are the only ones that don’t always listen to their bodies. I’m sure you can think of a time when somebody stood next to you in a crowd and you’ve gone ‘eww – there’s something about that person that just gives me the creeps’ and we would call it intuition or gut feeling but kids have them too.”
Holly-ann teaches children how to set up a safety team of trusted adults including family, teachers and people from the community to help empower children to speak up should the worst happen.
“Parent’s think that if anything happened to my child, my child would tell me and I’m here to tell you, that they may not. Because of the grooming process, because kids want to protect their families – there’s lots of reasons why children don’t always come forward and tell their parent but they might tell their teacher or somebody a bit further removed than somebody in their family.”
If you want to learn more about Safe4Kids and the work Holly-Ann is doing, including access to a free ‘Child Abuse Prevention’ starter kit, head to the Safe4Kids website.
Listen to the full interview with Holly-Ann Martin in the audio player above.