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As parents and carers of children there a number of key steps we can take to build resilience and protect our kids from sexual harm. With approximately 1 in 5 children experiencing child sexual assault or exploitation, the good news is that for the most part, this crime is preventable.

By educating and empowering yourself, your children and their carers, we can minimise the risk of harm and make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.

HOW TO TEACH YOUR CHILD ABOUT PERSONAL SAFETY

Easy steps you can take to empower your child with personal safety skills.

KEEPING YOUR CHILD SAFE ONLINE

Tips and strategies to protect your child online.

FACTS ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT & EXPLOITATION

Sort the fact from the fiction when it comes to child sexual assault and exploitation.

RESOURCES FOR PARENTS

Information sheets and resources for parents and caregivers.

DITTO’S KEEP SAFE ADVENTURE SHOW

Information about Bravehearts’ acclaimed personal education show.

THE PARENT’S PODCAST

A podcast by Bravehearts covering issues related to child protection.

FAQs

Approximately 1 in 5 children will experience child sexual assault or exploitation. Where does this stat come from?

As with most statistics in this area, there are few that are definitive. We have taken the 1 in 5 statistic from a number of different studies over the years. It is important to note that this includes the continuum of sexual behaviours – from non-contact offences such as grooming, online offences and exposure through to the contact such as fondling and penetrative offences: Some of the research we base this statistic on includes:

  • In Australia, approximately 1 in 3 females and 1 in 7 males report having experienced some form of child sexual abuse (Quadara & Miller, 2014. Sexual abuse and exploitation prevention: Effective responses. Australian Institute of Family Studies).
  • A summary of Australian prevalence studies estimates that up to 8% of males and 12% of females experience penetrative child sexual abuse, and up to 16% of males and 36% of females experience non-penetrative child sexual abuse (Price-Robertson, Bromfield & Vassallo, 2010. The prevalence of child abuse and neglect. Australian Institute of Family Studies).
  • An Australian birth cohort study found that at age 21 years, sexual abuse in childhood was self-reported by 19% of males and 31% of females (Mills et al., 2016, Self-reported and agency-notified child sexual abuse in a population-based birth cohort. Journal of Psychiatric Research).
  • A review of child sexual abuse studies in Nordic countries found prevalence rates for broadly defined (including contact and non-contact) child sexual abuse of up to 23% for boys and 36% for girls (Kloppen et al., 2016. Prevalence of child sexual abuse in the Nordic Countries: A literature review. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse).
  • Studies are more likely to approach the true prevalence of child sexual abuse when they use broad definitions, a nationally representative sample and well‑designed questions. One such study, the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland survey, found that 20% of women and 16% of men had experienced contact child sexual abuse, and a further 10% of women and 7% of men reported non‑contact child sexual abuse (Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 2017. Final Report Volume 2: Nature and Cause).
How would I know if my child is being sexually assaulted or exploited?

A child may choose to disclose or not disclose, and their reasons for doing so can be very complex, due to the complicated relationship between a victim and the offender.

Bravehearts recommends speaking to children and young people about relationships, private parts and other personal safety education to provide them with the knowledge and confidence to disclose if they ever need to.

Bravehearts also recommends that parents and carers pay attention to their child’s emotions, behaviour and routines. Changes may be gradual or sudden, and any changes in a child’s behaviour should be monitored.  Some common indicators in children that they may have experienced child sexual assault include:

  • Unusual or new fears, sometimes around touch
  • Difficulty concentrating or with memory
  • Eating or sleeping changes
  • Fear of being alone with a particular person
  • Sexual themes in artwork, stories, play etc.
  • Showing a knowledge of sexual behaviour beyond their years
  • Bedwetting or soiling after being toilet trained
  • “Acting out” behaviours (aggression, destructive behaviours, truanting behaviour)
  • “Acting in” behaviours (withdrawal from friends, depression)
  • Vaginal, penile or anal soreness, discharge or bleeding
  • Problems with friends and schoolwork
  • Vague symptoms of illness such as headache or tummy ache
  • Self-harm (cutting, risky behaviour)
  • Zoning out or not listening

Short term effects may include:

  • Increased illness, body aches or other physical complaints
  • Poor attendance or performance at school
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory loss
  • Mood changes
  • Regressive behaviours
  • Sleeping and eating disorders
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Nightmares
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Self-hatred or reduced self-esteem
  • Promiscuous behaviour
  • Aggression
  • Zoning out or not listening

Long term effects may include:

  • The development of violent behaviour
  • The development of criminal behaviour
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Inability to form lasting relationships
  • Identity difficulties
  • Marital problems
  • Poor parenting skills
  • Alcohol and substance misuse

It is really important to understand that the impacts and effects of child sexual assault and exploitation can be minimised. Children, young people and adults who are supported and believed when they speak out are less likely to endure long terms negative impacts.