1. Child protection is everyone's business. The responsibility lies with adults in keeping children safe from harm. All members of society need to play a part in ensuring children are nurtured and safe.
2. Adults are essential in ensuring children's safety and well-being.
3. Listening to children and young people is the number 1 indicator in assisting their safety and well-being.
Children speaking out about their abuse are often disbelieved or ignored. Parents, professionals and community members all need to hear what children say and seek advice in ensuring they respond appropriately to children when they speak out about abuse.
Research shows that children often communicate signs of abuse by statements such as: regularly complaining of ailments such as tummy aches and headaches with no other causation. For further warning signs CLICK here: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect.htm#warning
When feeling concerned adults and/or children need to speak out and seek assistance. Trust yourself. Anything that doesn’t feel right (such as ‘gut feelings’) needs to be paid attention to. Given that research shows that adults often don’t hear what children say, for children that means that they may need to tell up to 6 adults before someone hears them about their abuse (ACF 2010).
Research also demonstrates that after telling one adult who does not listen children and young people most commonly shut down and stop speaking. Adults need to pay attention to children who speak out about abuse. Most children stay silent because the abuser has insisted they do so. This is a major part of grooming and ensuring they as the perpetrator remain safe from detection or prosecution.
4. Children and young people are honest. They are unlikely to lie about abuse. They are more likely to stay quiet about abuse or harm than to speak up (especially if they know their abuser).
On the rare occasion that children or young people can and do speak out they need to be heard and given an appropriate response to ensure their safety and well-being. It is unusual for children who are being abused to tell someone. When this does occur, that someone needs to pay attention.
5. Mean or cruel words harm children and young people.
Cruel comments, name calling or yelling at children can hurt them and make them feel unimportant and unlovable. ‘Sticks and Stones’ comments of days gone by have long been disproven and it is clear that calling children names, even in jest is harmful. Yelling, name calling or making cruel comments about children or any part of them is harmful. If you are a trusted person in a child’s life it is most likely that they will believe what you are saying.
6. Understanding why people harm children and young people is essential in helping to prevent child abuse.
The majority of people who harm children are parents or care givers and do so emotionally, physically or by neglect. The intent is not necessarily to harm children as often stress factors mean that persons take out their stress on children through either neglect or through verbal or physical means. This is not acceptable behaviour but it can be changed with assistance from professionals with the support of others within the family and community. With assistance these forms of abuse can be eradicated, parents and care providers taught new skills and children can be supported to live safely with their families or care givers.
Another major form of harm is resultant from domestic and family violence. Often the non-violent parent attempts to protect children from abuse and is unable to do so in the main due to the on-going abuse by the perpetrator. With the support of domestic and family violence services, the Queensland Police Service and courts as well as family and friends in the community, non-violent parents and their children can be protected from domestic and family violence and be supported in living lives free from violence and abuse.
Arguably, the most horrific types of abuse perpetrated against children and young people in our society are by those with intent to harm. Those who see children as ‘fodder’ for their depraved actions and ill intent. Some of these perpetrators are considered sociopathic but not all are. These perpetrators seek out children and their families, note any vulnerabilities they consider can be capitalised upon and they systematically set about harming children and young people because they have an interest in power and control and they consider that children and young people can be abused more easily than others in society. Sometimes these predators become parents in order to use children for ill intended purposes. Sometimes their crimes are opportunistic, in that they note a momentary opportunity to pounce on a child who is vulnerable. However, more often they work on building trusting relationships with those in the children’s and young people’s lives who care about them. Such perpetrators are often family members or close friends.
7. The corruption of children and young people by being forced into acts against their will, including illegal activity harms children and young people.
8. Being ignored, going hungry and feeling and/or being treated as invisible harms children and young people.
9. Seeing or directly experiencing domestic and family violence harms children and young people.
10. Being physically, verbally, sexually or emotionally abused harms children and young people.
11. Not having health, educational and other developmental needs met harms children and young people.
12. Being groomed for sexual abuse harms children and young people.
13. Being forced to do something that feels 'wrong' harms children and young people.
14. Being forced into situations that feel unsafe harms children and young people.
15. Being forced to be with people (even those who are 'known' and 'loved') who feel unsafe harms children and young people.
16. Being forced to be with people who children or young people have stated have abused them, harms children and young people.
17. Not being heard when they speak about abuse or trauma harms children and young people.
18. Being removed from their home and/or family causes trauma and loss and harms children and young people.
19. Knowing they have no voice to speak of how they feel and what they've experienced in terms of their safety and well-being harms children and young people.
20. Being without the right to make decisions in their life such as where they live, who they visit and where they spend time harms children and young people.
21. Caring for children and keeping them safe is a shared responsibility
Government, non-government partners and communities are working together to build a child and family support system where Queensland children and young people are cared for, protected, safe and able to reach their full potential. The vision of the child and family reform agenda is that Queensland families and communities are empowered to become stronger, more capable, more resilient and are supported by a child and family support system that understands and respects the importance of family, community, and culture.
To find out more about the reforms underway and to access useful resources, please visit https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/gateway/stronger-families