I imagine like many parents, hearing the news earlier this week regarding the allegations of sexual assault at the Jack and Jill Childcare centre in Torquay, my heart sank into my boots as I considered the children and families affected by it.
According to the news report that I was listening to at the time, which I appreciate, is only secondhand information and not the whole story; staff & colleagues of the accused suspected nothing, as is so often the case - it is designed that way! Allegations only coming to light after a child had raised suspicions, alerting a parent following an incident.
Shortly afterwards I began seeing posts on social media relating to 'the importance of the PANTS campaign', a CSA prevention campaign run by the NSPCC.
Just the day prior, I had presented S.T.A.N.D, a prevention workshop for Parents & Caregivers addressing Parental Grooming & Coercive Behaviour, to yet another professional who works in the field of Child Protection. They reported that while they agreed entirely that the information being put across in the presentation was correct (which it is), they nevertheless felt it was important to point out that in 'their experience', 'Most teachers and social workers' that they come across in their professional capacity as an experienced Child Protection Training provider, would not be prepared to listen to a workshop about 'grooming and coercive behaviour that used an alternative method of delivery and would probably 'get up and walk out!'
Allow me to clarify;
Despite the information being sound.
Despite the acknowledgement that S.T.A.N.D contributes to the PREVENTION of Child Sex Abuse
and despite Child Sex Abuse being on the increase -
it is believed that some of the people tasked with teaching, supporting and protecting our children are not 'prepared to listen to an alternative perspective!
According to figures published by the NSPCC in 1989, 86% of sexual abuse crimes against children were committed by someone known to the child, with 14% being recorded as Stranger Danger.
(S.J Greighton and P.Noyes, Child Abuse Trends in England and Wales , NSPCC, 1989)
30 years on, lots of historical abuse cases coming to light, especially following operation Yewtree and the figures published by the NSPCC in 2019, are reporting over 90% of sexual abuse crimes against children are committed by someone known to the child with less than 10% being recorded as stranger danger.
Celcis. (2019, April 15). NSPCC Child sexual abuse statistics briefing. Retrieved November 8, 2019, from https://www.celcis.org/news/news-pages/nspcc-child-sexual-abuse-statistics-briefing/.
We are moving in the wrong direction - I wonder why that might be?
Even in this day and age, when as a society we have access to more information than ever before, and profess to be more honest and open than any time that has gone before us, discussing the sexual abuse of children remains a difficult & uncomfortable conversation for most. Let’s face it, it’s an horrendous subject to have to contemplate and one that sits uncomfortably with most of us. It is widely accepted that it is difficult to reach parents with this information, hence the reason for seeking an alternative method to ensure the important information filters through and moves us in the right direction towards prevention. The impact of Sexual Abuse on children and their families can be devastating and lifelong.
We all know the saying, ‘it’s not what you know it’s what you do with what you know that counts’, and it is vitally important that we all learn from the mistakes of our past. Information gained in hindsight only becomes useful if it is shared and used as Prevention.
Prevention is the key! Prevention is the only way to protect our children and our families.
Campaigns like Pants currently being run by the NSPCC is endorsed by teachers and social workers because it is run by the NSPCC (see below);
‘Privates are Private. Your underwear covers up your private parts and no one should ask to see or touch them. ... If someone asks to see or tries to touch you underneath your underwear say 'NO' – and tell someone you trust and like to speak to. No means no.’
Pants encourages children to talk to parents about pants and visa- versa and while this approach may prove useful in some cases (as being suggested in the Torquay case) it isn't made clear how many children where taught the PANTS rule and how many of those children, didn't come forward.
We must consider how many children such campaigns prove unhelpful or even damaging for!
Children cannot be expected to understand what many adults fail to recognise!
Then there is the concern that if someone is at the stage of asking to look at a child’s pants, there is the possibility that the child has already been groomed and is therefore unlikely to tell – in which case, this is not prevention.
As pointed out in STAND, Parents & Caregivers/Adults, regularly over-ride children’s choices automatically, often without realising it, which means Parents must be held 100% responsible for the child’s safety and not the child whose choices are being over ridden;
Parents are Protectors.
What is the impact on a child who is taught the pants rule but who, for whatever reason, does not heed the warning and does not speak out? maybe because they have already been groomed or maybe just because they are children and don’t realise the importance of what’s being taught!
Pants are funny, silly things to most children and an adult who grooms a child, already knows this!
Children do not make a connection between ‘pants’ and sex, they cannot possibly know what is to come if they fail to speak up when someone’s asking to look at their pants or touch their private parts.
What is the impact on a child that doesn’t tell, and is then abused? How is that child going to feel about themselves moving forward – having missed such important information that they only realise the importance of after the fact and which has led to this horrific abuse and feelings of guilt, shame and complicity?
Feelings of worthlessness and adversity stem from negative emotions such as these.
How a person feels about themselves shapes their entire lives! How a person feels about anything - is everything - what are we teaching our children?
I am not suggesting STAND provides all the answers and solves all the problems and Pants doesn't - far from it.
What I am saying is, it is widely accepted by professionals, including the NSPCC and the parents who have taken part in it, that STAND, like PANTS plays an important part in contributing to the prevention of Child Sex Abuse which can only ever be achieved if the people tasked with positive change are prepared to step back and accept that they don't have all the answers either!
STAND – Parents Are Protectors
is a 3 hour, live instructor led, original workshop addressing Parental Grooming & Coercive Behaviour, delivered using a familiar, non-offensive theme that parents & Caregivers can easily relate to, without the need to use emotive or distressing material that many people find difficult to listen to.
STAND removes ALL responsibility away from the child, placing it where it belongs with the adults, promoting active listening and child advocacy.