Everyday ways to prevent child sexual abuse in families and communities
Most child sexual abuse is carried out either by family members or people children or families know. This means that preventing child sexual abuse starts with your family and your community.
Here are some everyday things you can do in your family and community to prevent child sexual abuse:
- Talk with children about child sexual abuse and children’s personal and sexual safety.
- Take some basic safety precautions – for example, if your child is alone with adults or young people, ensure that they can be seen and/or interrupted at any time, and always go with your child to public toilets.
- 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 on things like 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.
- Learn about grooming.
- 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
- Ask other parents about community organisations and groups that follow child-safe practices or have good reputations for child safety, and ask organisations about their policies.
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.
Community policies and practices to prevent child sexual abuse
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 make improvements in the area of child safety, 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 Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service for advice. Call 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732.
Working with local services and organisations to prevent child sexual abuse
It’s important to recognise that some small, community-based, volunteer-run organisations might need support for child safety. They often have fewer resources to develop child-safe policies and practices or keep up to date with regulations and requirements.
You can play a part in helping organisations protect children and prevent child sexual abuse. For example, you or a group of parents could volunteer to review past and current child-safe practices and policies in the organisation and develop new ones if needed.
If you’re helping to develop new policies and practices, here are some things you could consider. Not all of these will be relevant to all organisations:
- 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.
- All members, staff and volunteers must be trained in preventing, recognising and responding to child sexual abuse and should also be trained in recognising grooming.
- Everyone in the organisation should have access to, understand and follow clear, step-by-step procedures for dealing with questions, suspicious situations and reports of abuse, as well as guidelines about professional boundaries and physical contact.
- Parents and children should be able to ask questions and share concerns about child protection and safety.
If you’re working on child safety in or with a local organisation, you might like to check the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. The Principles were recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and aim to create safe environments for children. Organisations that work with children, like schools and sports clubs, are being encouraged to use the Principles.