WHAT IS 'BODY SAFETY AND PROTECTIVE BEHAVIOURS EDUCATION'?
Body Safety Education (protective behaviours) is whole community education to protect children from sexual abuse. Comprehensive Body Safety Education empowers adults to champion children’s rights while teaching children relationship skills that will benefit them for life.
MY CHILDREN ARE NEVER UNSUPERVISED. DO WE REALLY NEED BODY SAFETY EDUCATION?
Teaching children Body Safety skills is the same as teaching them about healthy eating. While they are small, you are making all their food choices for them but as they grow you want them to have the skills to understand about nutrition. The earlier you start, the more confident they will be.
Sadly, in 80% of cases, the perpetrator of childhood sexual abuse will be either a family member or someone known and trusted by the family. While we don’t want to believe this of people we care for, brushing up on prevention education can save a child from harm in the event that there is an abuser within your community.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD I TEACH MY CHILDREN BODY SAFETY?
It’s never too young to start talking about body safety! Start with teaching children about private body parts and talking about whom a child can go to if they need help.
Like all skills that we give our children, Body Safety Education works best when it’s an ongoing conversation using everyday ‘teachable moments’ to positively reinforce messages
WON'T THIS MAKE MY CHILD LOSE THEIR INNOCENCE?
The beauty of whole community Body Safety Education is that talk of sexual abuse is confined to adult workshops while children participate in fun activities that give them life skills.
Children will discuss early warning signs and unwanted touch. These topics are always approached in an age-appropriate and empowering manner.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A SEXUAL PREDATOR?
We tend to think of sexual predators as strangers in a white van luring children with promises or lollies or pleas to help find a lost dog. In reality, childhood sexual abuse predators look like any person in our communities. They are fathers, husbands, sports coaches, religious leaders, neighbours and teenage relatives. In approximately 5% of cases they are women.
Abusers invest a lot of time in grooming a family and individual children. They might make themselves available for babysitting, bring treats and gifts, offer to take a child on outings – in short, they will establish a bond of reliability and trust with a family. Often perpetrators of sexual abuse will talk to the child about ‘secrets’. They may provide secret lollies or cash, setting a precedent for secret sexual activities.
WHAT DO I DO IF A CHILD DISCLOSES ABUSE?
How you respond to a disclosure of abuse can make a huge difference to a child’s life and healing process. Survivors say that they had to disclose on average five times before they were believed and most didn’t feel supported until they were adults. You can be the person that ensures a child becomes safe and starts healing from the moment they reach out to you.
Remain calm! Let the child know that you believe them, that you think they are brave and you are glad they talked to you. Let them know they are not to blame.
Don’t make any promises to the child! As much as you want to say that nobody will ever hurt them again, becoming safe is a long, complex process. Even more so if the abuser is a family member.
Report the abuse! Reporting suspected abuse is a community-wide responsibility mandated by the Victorian 'Failure to Disclose' legislation which says:
WHAT ARE THE CORE THEMES OF BODY SAFETY EDUCATION?
At Body Safety Australia, our children's curriculum covers 10 Learning Objectives.
- Emotions and Body Language
- 'Early Warning Signs'
- Flight, Fight Freeze responses
- Assertive Communication
- Identifying Safe Adults
- Understanding Bodily Autonomy and Consent
- Public and Private Body Parts
- Difference between Secrets and Surprises
- Tricky Times (as opposed to 'Stranger Danger')
Online and technology safety is embedded in all lessons.
WON'T THIS JUST MAKE MY CHILD FEARFUL?
Actually the opposite!
Comprehensive Body Safety Education helps raise assertive, resilient children who are confident in speaking up, identifying and participating in healthy relationships, and communicating their needs to those around them.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT A CHILD HAS EXPERIENCED SEXUAL ABUSE?
Unfortunately there is no guaranteed way to identify a child who has been abused unless they disclose the abuse. While it is possible that there may be physical signs like sores, bruises or bleeding from around the genitals, this is quite uncommon in children who are being abused.
Some common signs include changes in mood, behaviour, eating habits, sleep patterns or toileting habits etc. These are often missed as they could be caused by other things like a change in diet, a new school or routine or moving house.
Other indicators to be aware of are a child who ‘feels sick’ when they are expected to see or be around a particular person. Some children may instigate or display inappropriate sex play.
Some children might try to drop hints into their conversations, testing whether it is safe to discuss and whether they will be believed.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE?
Child sexual abusers choose their victims based on whether they feel they can ‘get away’ with abuse. They may target a child from a family with many siblings, or an under-supported family where parents will be grateful for the help.
Children from single parent or disadvantaged families may be targeted as well as children with disabilities and very young children. Children who have previously been abused or suffered trauma are also over-represented as victims.
WHAT MAKES BODY SAFETY AUSTRALIA DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER PROTECTIVE BEHAVIOURS PROGRAMS?
Body Safety Australia programs have been developed using international studies on childhood sexual abuse and respectful relationships. We follow best practices in education using age-appropriate and diverse tools to deliver learning. See our annual evaluation results!
Increasingly internet-connected devices are used as a grooming tool. Our founders ensure that our programs are responsive to the latest development in technology and remain relevant to children every year.
Body Safety Australia works with diverse communities to ensure programs are inclusive and represent the lived experiences of children in Australia.