Groundbreaking campaign urges Australians to start a national conversation about child sexual abuse

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Editor’s note: Stop the Stigma video and media kit available via Hightail

Australia’s foremost child safety advocates, and Australian of the Year Grace Tame and the Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews will today launch a compelling new campaign to spark a national conversation about child sexual abuse.

The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) will lead the Stop the Stigma initiative.

The partnership involves the AFP, Ms Tame, the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, Carly Ryan Foundation, Bravehearts, YourTown (Kid’s helpline) and Act for Kids.

Stop the Stigma is the first national project designed to help end public stigma about child abuse. It was developed between Australian law enforcement, NGOs and industry.

It is also designed to send a strong signal to victims and the community that this vitally importation issue has to be a two-way conversation. If victims are brave enough to speak up, as a community we need to be brave enough to listen and act.

ACCCE research has shown that 21 per cent of parents and carers say child sexual abuse is too confrontational to think about – and more than one in 10 parents would be too embarrassed to talk about it if their child was exploited.

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said keeping children safe online and offline was a real priority for the Morrison Government.

“We encourage children to speak up if they’re offered a ride with a stranger – and this needs to be the same. Keeping children safe from sexual exploitation shouldn’t be embarrassing or shameful – we all have a part to play in this important conversation,’’ Minister Andrews said.

“Child abuse thrives in the shadows, speaking up is difficult but it educates the unaware, protects the innocent, gives a voice to victims, and brings offenders to justice.”

Ms Tame, who was recognised as Australian of the Year in January for her successful fight to overturn a Tasmanian law that gagged rape victims speaking publicly about their experiences, said every voice mattered.

“Discussion of child sexual abuse can be uncomfortable but so too talking about suicide and domestic violence.

“Now we talk about preventing suicide and domestic violence regularly, and it has greatly benefited society because it has driven new laws and more funding to support those who need it.

“We need to talk about child sexual abuse too.

“So let us redirect this discomfort to where it belongs: at the feet of perpetrators of these crimes. Perpetrators thrive on silence. When we share, we heal. Survivors be proud.”

Survivor Jason Murphy, who took nearly 20 years to speak out about the abuse he received from an Uncle, said the most important thing people could do was to “start the conversation”.

“Listen and believe when someone approaches you for support,” he said.

Latest figures from the ACCCE show that specialist child protection police more than doubled the number of charges laid in the 2020-21 financial year with total arrests rising 45 per cent.

The figures highlight the urgent need for Australians to confront the topic as silence only helps perpetrators hide their crimes.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Northern Command Lesa Gale said Uber riders would be provided links to Stop the Stigma resources through the app.

Assistant Commissioner Gale said receiving support throughout the community would help law enforcement identify perpetrators and remove victims from harm.

“We must open the discussion about child sexual abuse so we can reduce the stigma and build awareness about a heinous crime that is far too prevalent,” Assistant Commissioner Gale said.

“We have to remember that some victims are still not survivors because they are still in reach of their perpetrators.

“If we can have these conversations, victims are more likely to seek help and perpetrators will find it harder and harder to hide.

“This is vital for preventing this crime from happening to our children. The most important thing that the community can do is to start the conversation and listen when someone comes to you for help and support.”

In the 2020-21 financial year, the AFP and state and territory police Joint Anti Child Exploitation Teams (JACET) have arrested 235 alleged offenders and charged them with 2772 charges.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the JACETS have maintained a high operational tempo with total charges against offenders spiking 130 percent, up from 1214 in 2019-20 while arrests jumped 46 per cent, up from 161 in the same period.

The ACCCE receives about 60 reports of child exploitation every day and logged more than 22,000 reports in the 2020-21 financial year.

Kids Helpline also recorded a 40 per cent surge in reports of child sexual abuse in the first six months of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.

Everybody can help Stop the Stigma with just four easy steps:

  1. Getting educated on child safety
  2. Knowing where to go for support
  3. Understanding how to report abuse
  4. Being ready to listen, and believe

For information on how to access support or report abuse, visit the ACCCE website.

Anyone aware of inappropriate behavior towards children should report it to the ACCCE.

Media enquiries

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2020-21

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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