Protecting children from sexual abuse should be the number one priority

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Protecting children from sexual abuse should be the number one priority

5 September 2022
Mother and primary school child leaning on each other on the pitch

National violence and abuse counselling service Full Stop Australia, calls for tangible action to combat child sexual abuse as Child Protection Week begins.

Today marks the beginning of Child Protection Week, with this year's theme “every child, in every community, needs a fair go.”

One-in-six girls and one-in-nine boys are abused before the age of fifteen in Australia.

15 – 19-year-olds are at the highest risk of both experiencing and perpetrating sexual assault.

Children who are sexually abused are up to 45% more likely to be victimised later in life and will likely suffer serious effects to their physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, social and educational attainment.

However, despite the prevalence of abuse, just 1.5% of sexual assaults result in a conviction. Across Australia there are blackspots for sexual assault services with many children not being able to access any services at all.

Full Stop Australia is calling for a commitment to upgrade the justice system to reliably prosecute child sexual offences, sufficient funding for child-focussed sexual assault services, and dedicated respectful relationships educators in every school.

Full Stop Australia Chief Executive Officer, Hayley Foster, who will be attending the Official Launch of National Child Protection Week at Government House this morning, says concrete steps must be taken to combat abuse.

“There are some really tangible actions that can be taken to protect Australian children from sexual abuse,” Ms Foster said.

“Right now, child sexual offence complainants in many parts of the country are subjected to unsafe and retraumatising court experiences when seeking justice. We need to afford them greater protections when giving evidence so we can reliably hold sexual predators to account and prevent them from re-offending.”

“The other major protective factor for children impacted by sexual abuse is ensuring they have access to trauma specialist sexual assault services, and yet these services aren’t universally available and even in places where they are, children’s calls for help are going unanswered.”

Ms Foster also wants to see a focus on primary prevention of teen sexual harassment and assault.

“We have to face the reality that teen sexual harassment and assault in this country is endemic and take meaningful steps to ameliorating this,” Ms Foster said.

“We can’t leave children’s relationships education to the internet. We need dedicated respectful relationships educators in every school, so children have someone qualified and safe to talk to that they trust to assist them in navigating their first intimate relationships.”

“This Child Protection Week we’d like to see concrete actions to ensure every child is safe and supported.”

“Surely this should be our number one priority.”