Has the world always been like this? My heart aches for Tiahleigh

September 21, 2016

“Somewhere between one in four and one in three girls, and one in six and one in nine boys will experience childhood sexual abuse.”*

This is the reality of the world our children live in today and whether we like it or not, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. So with that knowledge at hand, what can we do to protect our kids?

I’ve always wanted to write about the issue of childhood sexual abuse as it’s something I’m very passionate about and now with the tragic news of what has allegedly happened to Tiahleigh Palmer, I feel the time is nigh.

It’s cases like this that rile us as a community/society and make us question how so many children, our most vulnerable and precious citizens, are finding themselves in these awful situations where their safety is not the top priority of the adults caring for them.

How are they (so easily it would seem) being handed over to adults who place their own interests and desires before that of the child?

And how is it that we as a society, as a human race, aren’t more vigilant when it comes to protecting the lives of our most vulnerable (that question extends beyond children and includes our elderly, people less able bodied, people suffering from a mental illness, etc.)?

What the hell is going on?

I also can’t believe the thriving industry of child pornography and sexual slavery both here and abroad – what the hell is going on? Has the world always been like this and I was just too young and naive to know about it or is it something that has gotten worse with time?

And yet, while these cases highlight atrocities happening around us, I don’t feel that the real message is sinking in – that childhood sexual abuse can happen to anyone and it’s often perpetrated by the people we know and trust.

Foster kids, pedophile rings, sexual slavery, even Daniel Morcombe and the “stranger danger” message – it all seems so far removed from our everyday, humdrum lives, but with the statistics mentioned above, we can’t deny that the evidence suggests otherwise.

Let’s acknowledge it is happening

Why is it that we choose not to acknowledge this reality? Is it because we are too scared to look the truth in the eye because it is too frightening? Is it because we’re in denial that it could happen to us? Or is it just too overwhelming and we don’t want to think about it?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but what I do know is that the more we bury our heads in the sand about the issue, the more vulnerable we are actually making our kids.

I’m not saying that you can’t trust anyone or that you shouldn’t let your kids do anything.

What I am saying though, is that it’s important to educate yourself about the issue and to be mindful and aware of the interactions your children have with any adult or other children (as both can be perpetrators), and to be on guard if your instincts are telling you something is off.

There are a number of helpful resources out there, you just have to Google “Childhood Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet” and take it from there.

Organisations such as Bravehearts and Child Wise also provide great information and tools for both parents/carers, as well as children to help empower people through education on the issue.

* Fergusson & Mullen, 1999; NSW Commission for Children & Young People, 2009

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