Although parents often fear that strangers will abuse their children, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (2005) Personal Safety Survey, only 11% of children victimised sexually were victimised by a stranger. More often, children are abused by someone they know such as relatives, neighbours or family friends.
Child abusers usually begin with the offender building trust and friendship. They are unlikely to fit the strange, lurking man at the park stereotype. And even if a child has not previously met the person, once the person introduces themselves and strikes up a conversation then guess what? This person is no longer a stranger! So you can see how warning children against strangers may not be the most effective way to teach personal safety. What do we do instead? Pattie Fitzgerald, a child safety expert from Safely Ever After suggests we teach children about Tricky People.
- ask children for help (safe grownups go to other adults for help)
- tell children to keep a secret from their parents
- not to do anything, go anywhere or take anything from ANY adults unless they ask for parent permission first
- that if they can’t check with a parent first, then the answer is NO!
- they don’t have to be polite if they feel scared or uncomfortable. It’s ok to say NO to a grown up
- secrets that make them feel uneasy need to be shared with a parent
- everyone's bathing suit areas are private and so are our mouths
- if something doesn't feel right then tell a parent
Books to start the conversation about personal safety:
- Some Secrets Should Never be Kept by Jayneen Sanders (somesecrets.info)
- I Said No! A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Your Private Parts Private by Kimberley King