Stop It Now! campaign to tackle child sexual abuse
Today sees the launch of a new campaign to tackle the issue of child sex abuse. National campaign manager Rebecca Wasinski sets out her ambitions for Stop It Now! Wales and explains how she plans to work with the public to prevent children from coming to harm
IN THE wake of yet another high-profile child sexual abuse case – this month chartered accountant David Bye was sentenced to an indefinite prison term for the rape of an unidentified child – isn’t it time we all took action to stop children being abused in this way?
The Stop It Now! campaign aims to prevent child sexual abuse through adult awareness raising and education. As part of a UK and Ireland-wide initiative, we work to provide information and support to the public to help them protect children. Supported by the Welsh Assembly Government, our message is: Child sexual abuse is preventable – there are things we can all do to stop it.
In Wales there is little information and support available for parents, guardians, family members or other adults on how best to protect children and young people from sexual abuse; on how to identify abusive behaviour in another adult; and on where to go for further information if there are concerns.
Research by the NSPCC has established that one in six children experience sexual abuse before the age of 16. Additionally, a survey conducted earlier this year in Wales for Stop It Now! revealed nearly a third of respondents had been concerned about an adult sexually abusing a child. While most said that they had passed on their concerns to police or social services, one-fifth had not done so, out of a fear of being wrong or on the assumption that they would not be taken seriously.
Child sexual abuse is not just a statistic. It is a very real issue that is damaging the lives of thousands of children right now. This campaign, working with the public and a host of public and private-sector organisations and other charities, aims to initiate a co-ordinated response to prevent it.
The recent survey of the Welsh public also established that 41% of adults who responded were unsure of what signs adults may display if they were sexually abusing a child. Another 40% stated they would have reservations about taking action even if they suspected an adult of perpetrating child sexual abuse.
Imagine the difference it would make to children’s safety if these adults knew what signs to look out for and took action because of the support made available to them do so.
Launched in Scotland last month, this campaign is now set to address this problem in Wales and has a range of resources available.
Firstly, we have the Stop It Now! freephone helpline (0808 1000 900) which is available to any adult concerned about their own sexual thoughts or behaviour; to any adult concerned about another adult’s behaviour; and to any adult concerned about a child’s sexual behaviour towards other children. Latest figures show that 40% of callers (mostly but not exclusively men) are concerned about their own thoughts and feeling towards children. Over 30% of callers are concerned about the behaviour of another adult towards children – typically female callers worried about a male friend or family member. All callers receive information, support and advice to help them take action.
Secondly, we have a range of bilingual printed materials offering detailed information on normal sexual behaviours in children; on how to identify worrying behaviour in an adult or young person; on internet safety for children; on the signs an abused child; and on further help and resources.
Posters are also available that contain our key messages – essentially an appeal to the public to act if they are concerned. These materials are available free of charge and are currently being distributed across Wales via GP surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals, libraries and community centres.
Thirdly, we are developing pilot information courses aimed at parents, carers, grandparents and professionals working with families, children or young people. We hope to engage with the public effectively in this way, developing their awareness and offering practical information.
I am committed to protecting children and young people from sexual abuse. Every child has the right to grow up in a safe, supportive, nurturing environment. There is so much work to be done to open up this issue. It is time to face the fact that child sexual abuse is happening in Wales and to start addressing it.
I would appeal to anyone who is concerned about any issue relating to the sexual abuse of a child to act on their concerns. Please, find the courage to call our confidential helpline, speak to a trusted friend or family member, contact the police or social services. Surely we can all agree to work together to bring this issue out into the open. Our children deserve no less.
Rebecca Wasinski is the national campaign manager for Stop It Now! Wales, part of Stop It Now! UK and Ireland and managed by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The campaign’s UK and Ireland freephone 0808 1000 900 confidential helpline operates from 9am to 9pm Monday to Thursday and from 9am to 7pm on Fridays. Stop It Now! also operates a confidential e-mail service at [email protected] Visit www.stopitnow.org.uk and read the confidentiality statement before sending an e-mail. For general inquiries about child sexual abuse see www.lucyfaithfull.org.uk