Safeguarding children from child sexual abuse
Most child sexual abuse is carried out either by family members or people whom children or families know.
This means that children need safe adults in their lives to protect them from child sexual abuse. You play an essential role in safeguarding your child in your family and your community.
All children have the right to grow up safe from abuse. Protecting children from sexual abuse and working to prevent it in local communities is part of creating safe environments that help children grow and thrive.
To stay safe from child sexual abuse, children and teenagers need to know what it is and have language to describe it. Talking with children about child sexual abuse and talking with teenagers about child sexual abuse can help. It’s also important for children to know about sex and sexual development.
Safeguarding children in families and homes
Here are everyday things you can do in your family and home to safeguard your child from sexual abuse:
- Think about public and private spaces and family rules about privacy. For example, a rule might be that bathrooms are private spaces and that other people shouldn’t go to the bathroom with your child. Or play is a public activity and doors should stay open.
- Take some basic safety precautions. For example, if your child is alone with adults or other children or young people, ensure that they can be seen and/or interrupted at any time.
- Use babysitters that you trust. Check their references, meet them and watch how they interact with your child.
- Learn about grooming, and trust your instinct if something doesn’t feel right. For example, you can say no if people ask to take your child on outings alone, offer to coach your child individually, and so on.
It’s also important to make sure your child will be safe in other families and homes:
- Ask for details of supervision and sleeping arrangements when your child is invited to sleepovers, parties, camps, outings and so on.
- Check in with your child at sleepovers, sport and so on. For example, message your child at sleepovers to ask how things are going. Or ask questions like, ‘How was football coaching today?’
- Ask other parents how they check in on their children’s safety.
Children can be at risk of sexual abuse on the internet. You can protect your child from online sexual abuse by talking with them about internet safety for preschoolers, internet safety for school-age children, internet safety for pre-teens and internet safety for teenagers.
Safeguarding children in the community
One way to keep your child safe from sexual abuse in your community is by checking that community facilities and activities are safe.
Here are things to look for:
- Grounds and facilities should be well lit and easily supervised. Organisations should avoid scheduling activities in isolated areas of grounds and facilities.
- All activities with children, particularly those involving a single child and an adult or an older child, should be easily observed and interrupted.
- Older children or young people who have responsibility for younger children should be supervised.
- Everyone who spends time with children should be screened as suitable for working with children and have a working with children (WWC) check.
Local services and organisations like child care settings, schools, sports clubs and places of worship should have policies and practices to keep children safe and prevent child sexual abuse. It’s reasonable for you to expect this and OK for you to ask about it.
Here are ways to find out about these policies and practices:
- Ask your child’s school, sports club, before-school and after-school care or youth group for copies of their child safety policies.
- Ask questions about child safety at sports or activity clubs or other groups.
- Ask your local council about its strategies to protect children in the community, particularly in public spaces like parks and at community events.
And if you think a service could improve its child safety policies or practices, it’s OK to let the service know. In fact, this is a responsible thing to do as a member of the community. For example, if you’re concerned that your local shopping centre toilets are too isolated, you could let the centre management know.
If you suspect a child has experienced sexual abuse in your community, report your concerns to the police on 000. You can also call the National Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service for advice. Call 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732.