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Together we can prevent child sexual abuse LONDON Safeguarding Children Board Safeguarding Children at Risk of Child Sexual Abuse 18 th June, 2008 Child.

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Presentation on theme: "Together we can prevent child sexual abuse LONDON Safeguarding Children Board Safeguarding Children at Risk of Child Sexual Abuse 18 th June, 2008 Child."— Presentation transcript:

1 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse LONDON Safeguarding Children Board Safeguarding Children at Risk of Child Sexual Abuse 18 th June, 2008 Child Sexual Abuse Prevention – whose responsibility is it? The cost of telling – the hollowness of condemnation divorced from understanding Tink Palmer Director Stop it Now! UK & Ireland

2 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Looking back on 35 years of working with child sexual abuse The sexual abuse of children is big business – Joseph Rowntree report 2004 Sadly, our experience shows that the sexual abuse of children remains big business despite the changes in legislation, procedural guidance, policies and practices We need to open up debate about why this might be so and what we might do to change this state of affairs

3 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What has happened in the field of child protection? Numbers of Inquiries (33 official inquiries 1973 – 98 Kahan) Legislation Policies – often formed around the exceptional rather than the norm! Procedures Practice guidance ABE – achieving best evidence

4 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Legal initiatives put in place to manage known sexual offenders in our communities Registration MAPPPs Intervention programmes SOPOs RoSHOs

5 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What hasnt changed: some static statistics Most adult survivors didnt disclose as children and dont disclose as adults 1 in 6 children are victims of sexual abuse (Cawson et al) 8 out of 10 abusers are known to the child Over 90% of allegations do not result in convictions Less than 10% of child sexual abuse is dealt with by the criminal courts. Most is not reported to the authorities.

6 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What do we know about children? In general, they dont expect adults to harm them They feel they have got to do as they are told They dont expect to be lied to They expect adults to be honest They think adults know best They believe the threats they are told

7 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What do we know about children? They depend on adults who are close to them for their survival They are taught that adults know best – they look for clues from family about what is OK and not OK They may not know how to tell They may want the abuse to stop but want to keep the relationship with the perpetrator They may be fearful of the consequences of telling on someone, especially if that person is a close attachment figure: What will happen? What wont happen?

8 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What do we know about children? Effects of abuse-related stress can seriously damage development – including the pattern of brain development Early detection and intervention with children can drastically reduce harmful effects (Glaser, 2006)

9 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What do we know about perpetrators? They groom children They may lie to children They may frighten children They may make children feel special They cause confusion for the child victims They manage to silence children

10 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What do we know about perpetrators 2/3 are adults; 1/3 are young people They manipulate children and non-offending parents to maintain the behaviour and prevent disclosure They are heterogeneous in all respects Many do not see themselves as real sex offenders Many worry about their behaviour and some want to stop Unconvicted abusers rarely receive treatment Fear of the consequences of talking to the authorities prevents them from seeking help

11 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What do we know about non offending parents / carers There is a wide spectrum of knowing (Still, 2001) Many believe that they would spot a sex abuser and do not expect him or her to be someone close to them Most believe that their child would tell them if they were being abused Some who suspect abuse feel unable to challenge the abuser because of the relationship Their responses are misunderstood as they struggle to cope with their child's abuse and their feelings for abusive partners. (Still, 2001; Sharland et al, 1996)

12 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What do we know about non-offending parents / carers The non-abusing parent's support may be the most critical factor in determining the psychological consequences for the child and the child's recovery (Conte & Schuerman, 1987; Davenport et al, 1993; Ruggiero et al, 2000). Despite this, allocated resources remain low and ineffective (Jones & Ramchandani,1999) Fear of the consequences of talking to the authorities may prevent non-offending parents / carers from seeking help: What will happen? What wont happen?

13 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Gridlock Parent / carer Abuser Abused child

14 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse The issue The scale of the problem of sexual abuse of children is such that a major rethink of policy is needed – with much greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2004

15 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Stop it Now! US and Stop It Now! UK & Ireland

16 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse What is Stop it Now! UK & Ireland? It is a public information and awareness raising campaign regarding sexual abuse. It aims to prevent the sexual abuse of children by Giving accurate information Shifting existing beliefs Motivating positive actions

17 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Stop It Now!UK & Ireland `Targets: – Adult abusers and potential abusers: to encourage them to recognise their behaviour as abusive and seek help to change. Family and friends: to encourage them to recognise the signs of abusive behaviour in those close to them and to seek advice about what action to take; Parents of young people with sexual behaviour problems: to encourage them to recognise signs of worrying or abusive behaviour in their children and seek advice about what to do.

18 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse How do we want to influence them?

19 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Shift existing beliefs Adults are helpless to do anything Sex offenders are monsters Reliance on children to complain Messages Abusers are people we know / care about We are in a unique position to stop them 30-50% of abusers are children / adolescents Effective self control is possible via intervention All adults have a responsibility to work together to stop the sexual abuse of children. Motivate Positive Actions Change of attitudes and beliefs is not enough Adults need skills to set clear sexual boundaries Stop it Now! Helpline can be called Clear accessible help / resources are available Adults / adolescents can seek help and/or self report to the authorities Stop it Now! UK & Ireland

20 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Stop it Now! in operation National, regional and local projects Awareness raising materials and information Confidential helpline

21 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse

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24 The Helpline How it works Hours Lines Confidentiality Staffing Supervision and support

25 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Will adults ask for help and advice on a confidential basis? The report on 3 years activity of the Stop it Now! UK & Ireland Helpline (2006) showed that they will: 45% of calls came from adults worried about their own behaviour 30% of calls came from people worried about the behaviour of someone close to them, mainly partners 5% of calls were made by parents or carers concerned about the sexual behaviour of children and young people What do you want us to tell them?

26 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Some Questions How do we talk about those who have sexually offended and those they have harmed? How would we want the media to report on this subject? Do we give them the right information? If desistance is the norm, do we acknowledge this with offenders, families, colleagues? Or is it once a sex offender, always a sex offender? Are there any incentives in coming forward? Whilst it may be the responsible thing to do, are the hurdles too high? Do we offer hope?

27 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse...and a few more. Can past offenders and their families ever be accepted as responsible? Or do we always need to be in charge? Do we accept the heterogeneity of offenders, or do we treat them all the same? Best err on the side of caution? If the protection of children from abuse is the overriding consideration, would we say what we say and do what we do? Is child sexual abuse preventable?

28 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse

29 Stop it Now! UK & Ireland Helpline, June 2002 – May 2005

30 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse So what do we need to change and how should we go about it? The monster image of the sex offender prevents people recognising themselves and those close to them We need: Public education based on accurate information The childs needs to determine the response of the safeguarding, criminal and youth justice, mental health and family services systems Positive engagement with family members Intervention to match the needs, learning style and timescales of those affected

31 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Stepping out of the box – what might it look like?

32 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Stepping out of the box: for children They live in an environment where they know they will be heard if they say what is happening to them. They know that those close to them who were the cause of their abuse will be answerable for what they have done but will receive help. They will not have to spend periods of their childhood in emotional and physical pain without receiving help. They are not labelled troublesome / difficult / delinquent.

33 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Stepping out of the box: for abusers Incentives are built into social policy that allow them to come forward and ask for help. At the point of self referral or referral, appropriate and timely assessment and intervention is available. They are held accountable for their behaviours but not vilified, ostracised or scapegoated. They are offered hope that a good life is possible.

34 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Stepping out of the box: for non- offending parents and carers They are better equipped to hear what children are saying. They ensure that risks to children are minimised. They feel confident that when they take action: the child will be protected they will be supported and understood the perpetrator will receive help in a way that holds him or her responsible

35 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse How do we make it happen? Stop it Now! UK & Ireland invites you to join us at the seminars we are planning for the year ahead to explore new ideas and new ways of preventing child sexual abuse more effectively. Contact us on

36 Together we can prevent child sexual abuse Thank you


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