In light of the Rolf Harris allegations...
as parents and educators we need to listen up! Whether Rolf Harris proves to be guilty or not, what this media coverage highlights is a pedophile can be anyone. The sexual abuse of children has no social boundaries — 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday (Australia Institute of Criminology 2004) and in 93% of cases (and they are only the reported cases) the child knows and trusts the perpetrator. Pedophiles are in our community. And to be blunt, they may well be in our homes.
What we can do about it is quite simple. Teach ‘body safety’ to children from as young as 2.5 years old. The message to children is also simple: your body is your body and no-one has the right to touch it, and if they do, you must tell someone you trust and keep on telling until you are believed.
And parents never fear…the act of sex or sexual abuse is never ever mentioned. When we teach road safety, we don’t go into horrific details or show graphic images — why would we! We are teaching children. It is similar with sexual abuse prevention education; the message is child-focused and non-threatening. It needs to be! After all, we are teaching children.
As a baby boomer, Rolf Harris was a huge part of my childhood — Jack the Peg, Two Little Boys and all those amazing drawings whipped up in minutes. What was not a part of my childhood, was being educated by my parents and teachers in body safety. Fortunately for me, I was never groomed by a predator, followed by years of sexual abuse. However, a number of dear friends were. Their stories are heartbreaking. Their healing is ongoing and difficult. From the moment they were violated, their lives have never been the same. Some of these survivors were as young as 6 years old (in fact, about 40% of sexual abuse victims are under 6 years old) when they were abused. And the abuse did not stop; it went on for years and years. So many have said to me, ‘If only someone had told me it was wrong.’
If only… there is no doubt in my mind their lives would have been totally different.
One friend did tell a teacher, but sadly, was not believed. The key word for parents and educators is ‘believe’. As a mother myself, I know it is so easy to discount children’s concerned and worries in a world too busy with the day-to-day goings on. However, children very rarely lie about sexual touch and if there is a sudden change in their demeanour, please search a little further and find out why.
Teaching your child body safety maybe one of the most important gifts you give your child; provided you can put your own fears aside.
Body safety not only teaches your child about safe and unsafe touch, but encourages them to be assertive in regards to their own bodies. And in a world where children, teenagers and adults are and can be violated, this kind of empowerment can only be a good thing.
Jayneen Sanders is a teacher, author, mother of three teenage daughters and an active advocate for sexual abuse prevention education. Jayneen is the author of the children’s picture book on this topic ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept’.
For more information go to www.somesecrets.info