Abuse classes in child care
Children as young as three need to be taught how to deal with the threat of sexual abuse, according to a WA educator.
After years of educating schoolchildren about sexual abuse, Holly-ann Martin is now taking her work into childcare centres.
Ms Martin, who runs child protection education organisation Safe4Kids, said statistics showed one in seven of all sexual assault victims were children under six, with four-year-olds at greatest risk.
As well as the threat of abuse by adults, Ms Martin said an increasing number of childcare centres had been contacting her because of children inappropriately touching other children.
“When I’m having to go into a childcare centre because a four-year-old has abused a three-year-old little girl, (it shows) we have to start as young as we can to get to children, ” she said. “Quite often it’s too late once they get to school.”
Ms Martin said she trained childcare workers and parents in strategies to help prevent child abuse, including safe and unsafe situations and touching, the correct anatomical names for body parts and how and from whom to seek help if necessary.
The former special school teaching assistant said childcare centres rarely had structured abuse prevention education programs that could also be passed on to parents.
“It’s simple things, asking to pick children up, asking to tickle them, ” she said.
“That’s how you teach consent. We can’t wait until they’re 13 and start talking about consent.”
Hayley Tonkin, manager of Bletchley Play & Learn in Southern River, said all staff were required to go through the Safe4Kids program to work in their centres.
Mother-of-two Sarah Yoo, whose three-year-old daughter attends Bletchley Play & Learn, did the Safe4kids program two months ago with a group of friends.
“For a lot of parents, it’s a frightening idea, ” she said.
“A lot of parents don’t want to think about it. I figured the more knowledge I have about this, the better.”
Tips for parents
- Use ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ to describe situations or touching.
- Use feeling words as often as possible to encourage your child to talk about their emotions.
- Don’t make your child kiss adults goodbye.
- Make time to listen to your child.
- Help your child establish a team of five adults they can talk to if they feel unsafe.
© The West Australian