Did you know that according to the Australian Institute of Criminology’s website 12% of girls and 4.5% of boys will report being sexually abused by the time they’re 15? Statistically, this means that in every Aussie primary school class of 22 kids, 2 girls and 1 boy will report abuse before they reach their sixteenth birthday. Whilst this statics sound shocking – the sad truth is that they represent just the tip of the iceberg, as we know so much abuse goes unreported.
Unfortunately, most parents aren’t aware of these statistics and even when they do know, they simply don’t think that the statistics apply to their children. Yet the truth is that childhood sexual assault cuts across all demographics of society – so it doesn’t matter what cultural background you come from, what your socioeconomic status is, or what area you reside in – your child is just as much at risk, as any other child in Australia.
And whilst most parents ensure that they teach their child about stranger danger, what they don’t realise is that when it comes to childhood sexual abuse an overwhelming 90% of victims will actually be abused by someone they know.
Even more difficult to comprehend, is that in approximately half of these cases the child will actually be abused by a family member (either a parent, step-parent, grandparent, aunty, uncle, sibling or cousin). Whilst the other half will be abused by a neighbour, friend or an acquaintance otherwise known to them.
Another misconception when it comes to childhood sexual abuse is thinking that your child is only at risk of abuse by another adult. Yet again – the statistics reflect a very different reality, with Bravehearts now quoting that somewhere between 30 to 60% of childhood abuse is perpetrated by another child or young person. This means that abuse often occurs outside the typical environment you imagine – for instance it could be on a playdate, or at swimming lessons or whilst your kids are playing in the park – all situations where you are most likely just a few metres away from your child.
Understandably, these statistics are very overwhelming and the natural reaction for parents is to want to add another layer of cotton wool and hold on to your kids just that bit tighter. But we also know that we can’t be with our kids at every moment of every day and that it’s actually healthy for them to experience a measured amount of freedom, independence and autonomy.
So, what is the answer? My advice is that while you need to be vigilant in supervising your children and aware of who they are spending time with, the most important thing you must do is to empower your child with the knowledge that their body is private and that they have a right to protect their privacy. You need to begin having protective behaviour conversations with your children today. You need to teach them that it doesn’t matter who the person is ‘even if they are he or she, a stranger, a friend or my family, even if their cool or clever, sweet or kind, it just does not matter’, abuse is never ok.
If you want to learn more about having effective protective behaviour conversations with your children, check out my blog next month, where I will discuss the specific information you need to impart to your child. In the meantime, if you would like to order a copy of my protective behaviours picture book, to help guide you through the conversation with your child, you can go to www.onlyforme.com.au
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