Protecting youth from crime
As Pilbara police continue laying charges in their investigation into child sex offences and other forms of abuse, the issue of child safety is a topical one for local parents.
However, child safety experts say protective behaviours provide the strongest defence against these types of predators, giving parents a lot they can do to minimise the risks for their own children and others in their community.
Karratha police family and domestic violence officer Senior Constable and Protective Behaviours WA trainer Sarah Taylor, who presents workshops to both parents and children in the Pilbara, said the program was a well-recognised way of instilling vital knowledge in young people in an age-appropriate way.
“Protective behaviour is a lifeskill program that helps people from all walks of life on how to remain safe in unsafe situations,” she said, noting it applied to a wide range of child safety situations, including bullying and cyber crime as well as child sexual abuse.
“If we help empower kids with ways to be responsible and independent and make their own independent decisions, it gives them the ability to keep themselves safe.”
An estimated one in four girls and one in six boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18, and in 90 to 96 per cent of cases are abused by people known to them, running counter to the message of stranger danger more traditionally taught to children.
With cases of online sexual abuse by juveniles against juveniles also increasing, Sen. Const. Taylor said parents needed to be aware because “it is much more common than we think”.
Protective behaviours teach children:
They have the right to feel safe at all times.
That it is healthy to talk about their emotions, and expand their vocabulary of feelings so they are aware of them in different situations.
How to identify their body’s early warning signs — the physical sensations they get when afraid.
There is a “safety continuum” of scared feelings: safe, fun to feel scared, risking on purpose, and unsafe.
They should not keep secrets as a general rule and secrets are always to be shared. They especially should not keep “unsafe” secrets.
To list a “network” — a group of at least five adults accessible to them and who will listen to, believe and help them if needed.
If they have an unsafe secret, to keeping telling the people in their network until they feel safe again.
Better body awareness and ownership by categorising parts of the body, places, behaviour and information as public or private.
They should also know the correct anatomical names for private body parts.
About different degrees of personal space for different types of relationships and safe and unsafe touch.
To be assertive and know that sometimes it is OK to say no to adults.
If a child is in an unsafe situation, they should say no, get away and tell someone.
For more information on protective behaviours, go to www.protectivebehaviourswa.org.au/ or https:// www.dcp.wa.gov.au/Pages/ Home.aspx.
LINK parent information project co-ordinator Francesca Quayle and Protective Behaviours WA trainer Sarah Taylor run parent protective behaviour workshops in the Pilbara.