In Australia, a child is reported abused or neglected every 1.5 minutes and up to 30% of children experience child sexual abuse of some kind.
This is an alarming statistic. One that strikes fear into the hearts of parents.
What can be done?
According to Kim Kellaway, founder and CEO of Children’s Safety Australia, plenty.
Kim started the charity Children’s Safety Australia in 2008 after her experience as a police officer.
“When I was a fairly junior officer I became aware of the prevalence of abuse that children suffer. Particularly child sexual abuse and how the dynamics around that are so unknown” Kim said.
“I became really concerned about that ignorance. Often just not being aware of how it happens, when it happens and the reliance on stranger danger as a primary safety message when for many reasons, it’s such an inaccurate message.”
“The majority of abuse happens from a known person.”
Children’s Safety Australia is focussed on promoting the safety and wellbeing of children through empowering adults on how to protect children from abuse.
“Stranger danger” is a really outdated and unhelpful approach to take as almost 90% of children are abused by someone they know. Often someone they trust.
“To warn children about people that they know and trust can be a really confronting thing for parents.”
Children’s Safety Australia has four key messages that they want parents, caregivers and professionals to be able to pass on to children.
Safety Messages for Children
#1 – I am special, so are you
#2 – Safety is my right
#3 – My body belongs to me
#4 – I can get help
Self esteem plays a vital role in children’s safety.
“A child with a healthy self esteem is less likely to be targeted by someone causing them harm, more likely to confront and stop a situation and more likely to report” Kim said.
We can also teach children how to recognise when they don’t feel safe and empower children with body ownership.
Kim encourages parents to have open conversations with their kids, even if it’s uncomfortable.
“Sometimes parents have the belief that we’re talking about sex education but it is as simple as a few rules like, some parts of our body are private, generally parts that are covered up by swimwear and we have particular rules about those private parts.”
“It’s as simple as that. It’s not intended to be fear evoking and it’s just telling kids just like we teach them about traffic safety or pool safety or sun safety, these are the rules about how we keep our bodies safe.”
While parents play a primary role in the safety of their children, family friends, teachers and grandparents also have a role to play.
Children often won’t receive these messages at school or from parents. Letting a child know that you are there for them, that they can tell you anything at any time and that you’ll believe them is really powerful.
“Everybody can do something” Kim encouraged.
To learn more about the safety messages and the work of Children’s Safety Australia, get in touch via the website.
Listen to the full interview in the player above.