Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Protecting our children, Part 2: What you can do.

I wrote last week about child abuse, how to recognise it and what to do if you become aware of children that need help.  This week I want to look at ways you can help children to reduce their risk of abuse.  You may remember that the vast majority of abuse of children happens within the home despite the relentless media campaign about the predators 'out there'.   No one likes to think that their family is one where the mistreatment of children occurs, but while some forms of abuse, especially physical abuse, are more common in disadvantaged families, like other forms of family violence, child abuse occurs across all sectors of society.

So what can you do within your home to protect your children?
  • ensure that adults in the family have healthy ways of relieving stress: exercise, relaxation, hobbies, nurturing relationships rather than excess alcohol and watching violent and/or pornographic movies;
  • encourage children that there is nothing so bad that it can't be talked about, and the only secrets that need to be kept are fun ones(eg about birthday surprises), not those that worry children and parents need to keep lines of communication open;
  • teach children that their bodies are their own private space and that they should say 'NO, Don't do that!' if anyone touches them in a way that they don't like;
  • encourage children to be aware of their own network of adults they can trust to talk about things that are worrying them;
  • encourage your children to be assertive and resilient young people in all the ways we have discussed in previous posts.
This is not to say that it is children's responsibility to protect themselves, it isn't.  It is always the responsibility of adults to protect children, but adults don't necessarily know what is going on if  children have been sworn to secrecy or are ashamed of what has happened to them.  SO if a child's behaviour or personality seems to change, it is always worth exploring what is going on for them in such ways as 'you seem much more angry/quieter than usual lately...Has something changed or is something worrying you?'

If the child or young person reveals that abuse has been going occurring, what are you going to do?
  • Don't panic, and don't dismiss what the child says.
  • Thank and reassure the child that they have done the right thing in telling you, that you will take the steps necessary to protect them and that the abuse was not their fault.
  • If the abuse is of a sexual nature, and the person the child names lives in the same house as the child, you need to ensure that there is no way the child has contact until you notify either the Department of Human Services or the police.
  • Seek professional advice from the Department of Human Services, or contact one of the many family support and counselling agencies.


Victoria Police: Telephone  000 for cases of immediate life threatening risk to children

Department of Human Services: Office Hours: Ring appropriate regional office.

          After hours and weekend: 13 12 78

Family support agencies

Australian Childhood Foundation


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