I’ve received quite a few messages of support and sad stories from parents, foster parents and concerned members of the public about the sheer number of children abused, tortured and killed by their carers in Australia.
We covered the terrible story of Brisbane toddler Maddilyn-Rose Stokes who was badly scalded by water, and her parents failed to seek medical help before she died three days later. Her parents whom I’m going to name: Shane David Stokes, 30 and Nicole Betty Moore, 23 advised authorities that Maddilyn-Rose was scalded by bath water. Whether that is true or not, we don’t yet know. But what we do know is that that poor baby girl with significant burns to her legs, buttocks and back would have been in sheer agony.
And this needs to stop.
Here are my ideas – and please, I encourage you to add more to this. I will then be submitting these ideas to all child-related government agencies in Australia to see if we – the people – can get something done about it.
1. Keep your eye on all children, not just your own.
How are your neighbours, kids, your friends’ kids, your brother’s and sister’s kids. Do they appear well cared for, fed, happy and healthy? Does something just not sit right with you? Do you see them regularly or have they suddenly ‘disappeared’ for a period of time or not attended daycare or school? Do they have constant bruises that aren’t just ‘normal kids falling over and scraping their knees’ types of marks anywhere visible?
You aren’t being nosy, you are looking out for all children…
Keep a diary of dates and times and what you see.
SCARY FACT: 22% of abused children are under the age of 8 years old.
2. Never leave your child with people you don’t know.
As you take your kids to unfamiliar places or even to malls, parks, or schools, always make sure you don’t leave them with strangers. Sexual abusers tend to go to places where they will have easy access to children. Immediately intervene when your child is alone with any adult.
SCARY FACT: The average age of abused children is 9.
3. Ask if you can help a struggling parent.
If you know a struggling parent who is undergoing a tough time, just listen. Let them express their anger and frustration to help relieve their stress. Ask if there’s any way you can help them. If so, try to encourage them to do activities that can help them relax.
SCARY FACT: 34% of victims are abused by family members.
4. Teach your children the correct sexual terminology for body parts.
Tell your children about the proper term for their body parts, not just the words, “bird” and “flower”or “birds and the bees”. Teaching them the correct term makes them aware about sex, but make the topic something that would make your child comfortable discussing it with you. Tell them that it is really inappropriate for adults to act in a sexual way with children.
SCARY FACT: 93% of sexual abuse happens at the hands of an adult whom the child knows well.
5. Be alert on the signs of abuse.
While it may be hard to identify a child being abused, try to learn the signs. While it is not common, physical signs such as redness, rashes and swelling in the genital area, including other infections such as UTI must be investigated. The more common are emotional and behavioural signs. Children who are abused often display unexplained anger, rebellion and depression.
SCARY FACT: 59% of victims are abused by people whom their family judge as ‘trustworthy’.