Senior research fellow Dr Kerryann Walsh, from QUT’s Faculty of Education, said overseas experience showed that safety education programs in schools, with parent involvement, could help prevent child sexual abuse. She said that although these programs existed in Australia, they were particularly scarce in Queensland.
“In the U.S.A. there have been sexual abuse prevention programs in schools since the 1970s,” Dr Walsh said.
“With these programs in operation, as well as other measures, the U.S.A. has witnessed a significant decline in child sexual abuse in the last ten to fifteen years. We haven’t seen that in Australia – the number of substantiated cases has been consistently around 3500 per annum.
“Introducing a child sexual abuse prevention program into a school is a sensitive thing. Sometimes schools avoid it until it is too late, for example, when an incident has occurred in the school community and they are forced to introduce a program in a reactionary way.
“Principals and teachers rightly worry that introducing these programs may upset parents, but we really don’t know what parents think.”
Dr Walsh’s online survey, running from November 1 until December 12, was formulated based on her talks with parents in focus groups earlier this year.
The online survey asks parents whether they already talk about these issues with their children. And if so, what do they say, and what do they avoid saying? It also asks parents how they would feel about child safety being taught in schools and early childhood centres, and how much parent involvement they feel would be appropriate in such programs.
The survey asks whether parents themselves need more resources, and if so, what would be most helpful (such as parent information sessions, DVDs, written material).
“I’m hoping this study will give school systems a measure of what parents are thinking, so they can make informed decisions about if, how and when to introduce these programs,” Dr Walsh said.
** To participate in the online survey go to http://survey.qut.edu.au/survey/170731/1239/ **
Media contact: Michaela Ryan, QUT media officer, 07 3138 4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org