Not so stranger danger - National Child Protection Week

Protective behaviours is so much more than 'stranger danger'. This is because:

In 85-95% of child sexual abuse cases, the offender was known and trusted by the child.


According to a review by Bravehearts:

"In 95% of cases, the sexual abuse offender is known to the child; that is they are a relative or trusted friend. Only 5% of child sexual assault cases are ‘stranger danger’. (Child Protection Council, 1993).

Because the offender is often a person well known and trusted to the child and their family, they usually can easily arrange to be alone with the child - therefore the abuse is commonly repeated. This abuse rarely involves violence because instead of force, these offenders use promises, threats and bribes to take advantage of their trusted relationship with the child’s family and the subsequent powerlessness of the child. In some cases, this can go on for years. (NSW Child Protection Council, 2000)"

What you can do

As a parent or carer, you can’t be around all the time, so it’s important to instill personal safety skills in children so that we can empower them to start learning the basics of protecting their safety, who to go to for help and that they should never keep a secret that makes them uncomfortable. This is called protective behaviours.

Key Principals of Protective Behaviours

The key messages of Protective Behaviours that should be taught to children are:

  • I own my body

  • I have the right to personal space

  • I can say ‘no’ when I don’t want someone to touch me

  • I have the right to feel safe at all times

  • I know who to go to for help

  • If a secret makes me uncomfortable, I shouldn’t keep it a secret

These are the messages taught in our performance 'Fun Scary'. It is for Kindergarten-Year 3 and is FREE to WA schools. LEARN MORE.

Safe vs Unsafe Secrets

It is important that children can tell the difference between a 'safe' secret and an 'unsafe' secret. 

A safe secret:

  • Isn't forever. Safe secrets will be revealed soon. e.g what's inside a Christmas present is a safe secret because the receiver will find out soon, on Christmas Day.

  • Other people know. A secret that is known by lots of people, is usually safer than secrets kept by only one person. e.g a surprise birthday party is a safe secret because all the guests know about it.

and most importantly:

  • A safe secret doesn't give you 'bad scary' feelings. If a secret gives you 'early warning signs,'  such as butterflies in your tummy, feeling sick or dizzy, heart beating too fast or jelly-legs - it is important to tell a trusted adult on their helping hand. Everyone has the right to feel safe.

The Helping Hand

The helping hand is a Protective Behaviours exercise that helps children to pre-define their safety network by writing the names of 5 trusted adults on their hand that they can go to when they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If the person on the first finger is unavailable or does not solve the
issue, they are taught to persevere by speaking to the next trusted adult on their fingers. Constable Care Child Safety Foundation's logo is based on the helping hand exercise.

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Support services

1800-RESPECT - 24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling, information and referral for anyone impacted by sexual assault.
Anglicare - Information, counselling and support for anyone affected by institutional child/adolescent sexual abuse.
Australian Childhood Trauma Group - Professional support services for agencies and schools.

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