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’.
6. Have a plan in place.
If you learn about child abuse in your family, first of all, stay calm. It may be difficult, but this is the only way you can think clearly. Getting angry may result in your child not telling about the abuse for fear that they get reprimanded, or that would make them feel even more guilty. Just don’t overreact.
SCARY FACT: VERY few reported incidents are false.
7. Check you child’s internet use.
With children now getting glued to the internet, parents must be well aware of the dangers lurking in the worldwide web. Through the internet, paedophiles have discovered a way to interact privately with children all over the world. So, while children should still have time using the internet, it’s the parents’ job to monitor their move to avoid their kids becoming victims of child abuse.
SCARY FACT: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have been sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday.
8. Document the abuse you see and report it.
If you happen to witness an abuse taking place, document what you see. The time, date, location and information are important when reporting the incident. However, try to be objective and not subjective in collecting your information. Just straight facts, then report it to the authorities immediately. Your information may help protect a child.
9. Be an anti-child abuse advocate.
Get involved and volunteer to help in any anti-child abuse advocacy in your community. Support legislations. Let your voice be heard. Be it in social media or going straight to your elected officials or writing a letter to them about fighting child abuse.
SCARY FACT: There are 40 million survivors of sexual abuse in America.
10. Break silence and speak out.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, it may be difficult to be open about it, but speaking out and letting your story be a tool to help protect children could be the best way to stop child abuse. Sharing your personal story of abuse will help other people who are in the same situation relate to you and know how they will take action against the abuse.
How can you help stop child abuse?