Great food, good wine and hours of non-stop chatter with close friends. What mum doesn’t look forward to a good old ‘mums night out’? The chance to let hubby deal with those witching hours of ‘just one more mouthful’ and ‘just one more story’ and instead enjoy three blissful hours of uninterrupted adult conversation.
It was back in January 2014 that I was enjoying one of these mums nights – catching up with good friends and typically chatting about our kids, partners and work. However, the conversation took a more serious turn when two of the women shared stories about their children. Two stories that would have such a profound impact, that they would lead me on an unexpected journey into child protection and ultimately affect the lives of thousands of children across the globe.
Sadly, both stories told of young children being sexually abused by children their own age. In both cases, the incidents took place on playdates, whilst the mums chatted and the children supposedly played. In the first case, 7 year old *Jake was brave enough to disclose the abuse to his mum on the way home from the park. In the second case *Kylie’s mothers intuition kicked in and she decided to check on the 9 year old boys in the toilets, only to discover the abuse.
As I listened to these mothers share their stories, I was totally shocked. I had never considered my children to be at risk of abuse by their own peers; nor had I ever imagined my children could experience abuse while under my supervision. I returned home haunted by these stories and soon realised that my children were just as much at risk as these other young victims.
As a concerned mother I started researching how best to protect my children and quickly realised that the main weapon we have as parents is to empower our kids with the knowledge that their body is private and that they have a right to protect their privacy. However, I also wondered what exact information should I impart, how much detail should I give and how do I broach such a confronting subject without frightening them, or ruining their innocence?
As I reflected upon the complexity of these issues and how best to solve them, I became inspired to create a resource that would help parents facilitate protective behaviour conversations with their own children. I spent two years researching and consultating with expert professionals, educators and adult survivors of child abuse and in July 2016 my protective behaviours picture book ‘Only For Me’ was released to critical acclaim.
Ultimately this one ‘mums night out’ had a profound impact on my life. As a stay-at-home I never expected that I’d one day author a picture book that would become a resource of the Sydney Children’s Hospital or be endorsed by Act For Kids. I’d never dreamed that I’d sell over 3,500 copies, or foreseen that I’d become a passionate child protection advocate, spending my time raising awareness about the responsibility of parents to empower and educate their children about protective behaviours.
Over the coming months I now hope to impact your lives by further unpacking this confronting and challenging subject. I will breakdown the statistics and realities of child abuse. I will explain why we need to begin these conversations with your child from 3 years of age, what information you need to impart and how to go about educating your child without frightening them. I will also discuss the dangers of keeping secrets and the importance of nurturing relationships where your child feels comfortable confiding and disclosing. Essentially, I will be educating you as parents and equipping you with the tools you need to empower your precious children.
*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
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