The level of interest in workshops showing parents and teachers how to talk to children about sexual abuse has led to calls to do more.
The free ‘‘protective behaviours’’ education workshops in Wollongong during the past two weeks have started a conversation many see as increasingly important.
The Safe4Kids workshops focus on how to teach children to be wary of potential harm, without teaching them to fear.
Protective behaviours education is seen as a proactive, holistic, whole community approach to teaching life skills to children.
The language and principles of protective behaviour they learn help them identify unsafe situations and arm them with the tools to either seek appropriate assistance or protect themselves.
Guest speaker Holly-ann Martin, of Safe4Kids, said the main purpose of the free educational workshops was to arm people with the knowledge and information they needed to keep children safe.
Ms Martin spent 10 days in Wollongong encouraging people to work together to address the issue.
‘‘I really want to push the fact that parents need to go to their schools and ask their teachers or the principal ‘is my child learning abuse prevention education at school?’
‘‘Unfortunately I spoke a lot about porn because even very young children are being exposed to pornography. And they need help talking to their parents about it because they think they will get into trouble.
‘‘So I have been explaining to the parents how they have those conversations with their kids. I say you have to teach this but your school has to support this and teach it too. It can be pushed through the P&C.
‘‘In your state it is supposed to be taught in every school. There is a curriculum. But it is not being taught.’’
Ms Martin said it was all about learning how to say something to children that was not confronting for them.
It was also about making them realise what was OK and what was not OK, and to not be afraid to talk if something did happen.
Basically the message for parents to tell their children is ‘‘no-one touches your private parts ... and you’re not allowed to touch anybody’s private parts’’.
Ms Martin said both messages were important because it was not just adults sexually abusing children. Child-on-child sexual abuse was on the increase because of pornography.
‘‘Children are also told that no-one is allowed to show them private pictures because that is used in the grooming process by those who prey on young children,’’ she said.
‘‘But we can do this without scaring children. It is just having those conversations. Abuse prevention education is about having this common language that everybody is talking about.’’
Ms Martin said the whole community needed to be talking about the problem. She said the earlier children were able to raise the alarm the better. And achieving that was all about raising awareness about it being OK to talk.
Cristina’s House of Hope’s Cristina Magnante-Marrello said she was encouraged by the response at the first workshop she attended.
‘‘I went to the teachers’ workshop and there were 115 people there,’’ she said.
There has been so much interest during the last fortnight Ms Martin has been invited to come back later this year to do a larger community-wide workshop.
‘‘That will be open to everyone from teachers to parents and counselling services ... anyone who is interested in the welfare of children,’’ she said. Childcare centres will also be encouraged to attend.
‘‘We need to start between 2 and three years of age and it needs to be ongoing.’’
The Safe4Kids website has many resources to help parents.
‘‘I have a parent handbook, I have written children’s books and there are lots of other resources on there,’’ Ms Martin said.
‘‘Also on my Facebook page I am always putting up the latest research and free information for parents.’’