Taboo topic keeping kids at risk

Time to talk ... We need to discuss sexual intereference with our kids from a young age, expert says.
Time to talk ... We need to discuss sexual intereference with our kids from a young age, expert says. 

We take our children to swimming lessons so they can survive in our water-loving country, and we teach them road safety so we don’t lose them on their walk to school. But there’s one well-known danger in our society that threatens the safety of our children, that we often choose to ignore.

That danger is sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse affects one in four girls and one in seven boys in Australia under the age of 18. In 93 per cent of those cases, the perpetrator is someone they know.

It’s a topic that makes us uncomfortable to talk about. We cannot imagine that such an abhorrent act could be made against our child, but in 2005 over 1.2 million children under the age of 15 were victims of sexual abuse.  

As National Child Protection Week comes to end we need to ask ourselves how we can equip our kids with the tools to keep them safe from sexual interference.

Parents need to think ‘Yes, it is horrific, it is revolting, and I don’t want to know about it, but I need to get over this and teach my kids body safety’

Jayneen Sanders is an experienced primary school teacher, editor, publisher and author of Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept.

Appalled at the lack of education on the topic of body safety in her school and community, Sanders was inspired to write a book that tackles the problem head on.

“They teach water safety, they teach road safety, but they are just not teaching body safety. With no education, with no one talking about it, children are going out there into the world, unprotected in a way,” she says.

The book tells the tale of little Alfred, and how he struggles to keep a secret that he knows he shouldn’t. Beautifully illustrated by Craig Smith, the sensitively written tale is a great tool to start educating children on how to keep safe from unwanted physical contact.

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While case workers that deal with abused children support Sanders’s book, the biggest obstacle to getting the message out to children are their parents.

“It is just too horrific for them to think that anything could ever happen to their child – and hopefully it never does – but they are sending them out there into the world, particularly the very young, with no knowledge,” says Sanders.

When talking with their kids, parents are also reluctant to broach the topic of sex.

“When they hear ‘sexual abuse and education’ they naturally think they’re going to have to talk about sex with their child. But they’re actually not; you don’t need to talk about sex at all. You just need to tell them their rights about their body.”

Perpetrators rely heavily upon children keeping their secret. But if children are taught that their body is their body, and that they need to confide in a trusted adult when someone tells them to keep a secret they know is wrong, they are given the knowledge they need to stay safe.

Sanders is on a mission to see that every child is taught these basic safety tips, and has a sobering message to parents who avoid the topic with their kids.

“Parents just need to get over it. They need to think ‘Yes, it is horrific, it is revolting, and I don’t want to know about it, but I need to get over this and teach my kids body safety.’

“I won’t rest until they’re teaching it just like they do road safety. To me, as a mother, it’s just obvious that you need to do it.”

You can purchase Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept, complete with discussion questions and an optional teacher’s pack, on the website.  You can also watch a reading of the book by Australian singer and sexual abuse survivor Debra Byrne below.

For more information or to speak out against child sexual abuse visit the White Balloon Day website   and add your support to the cause. 

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