School’s new tools to battle child abuse

A Traralgon primary school principal wants a child sex assault awareness program rolled out across the country.

St Paul’s Anglican Grammar Traralgon Junior School principal Andy McNabb and fellow teachers recently attended a Protective Behaviours session where they learned methods to assist students with identifying and responding to unsafe situations and behaviours.

Praising the program for its practical advice, Mr McNabb said the school was “very keen” to extend the program across its curriculum.

Five staff members have completed the full Protective Behaviours training program, while other staff have attended an introductory seminar.

“The more staff that are trained in this, the better equipped we are to deliver this to the children,” Mr McNabb said.

“It’s something we need to be implementing throughout the curriculum and get the parent body on board with as well.”

He said Monday night’s session highlighted the need for a proactive approach in the fight against child sex abuse.

“It’s just really important we have our eyes really open to the dangers of the situation that could be lurking in any school situation,” Mr McNabb said.

Protective Behaviours Western Australia senior trainer Justine O’Malley, who ran the St Paul’s session, said the program was about “empowering children to recognise and report unsafe situations and empowering the parent to have a true understanding about these unsafe behaviours”.

She said children were taught about ‘stranger danger’ growing up, but statistics from PB revealed 94 per cent of children were assaulted by someone they knew.

“Sexual abuse is planned and calculated. These predators are looking to groom the children and look for children who don’t have the opportunity to speak out,” Ms O’Malley said.

She said according to the Routine Activities Theory, for a crime to occur there had to be three components in play – opportunity, victim and the offender.

“If we can reduce the vulnerability of a child, we can reduce the opportunity. If a child says ‘no, don’t touch me there, that’s private’ the predator will see it as too hard and that might be all it takes to turn the offender off,” Ms O’Malley said.

“It’s not the responsibility of the child to protect themselves. It’s our responsibility to equip parents with those skills and strategies to identify unsafe situations (and protect their children).”

Mr McNabb said if the program could make a difference to one child then it was worth it.

For more information on Protective Behaviours and upcoming sessions, phone Latrobe Valley Protective Behaviours’ advocate Frank Bezzina on 0412 047 668.