Campaign calls on community to ‘Stop the Stigma’ around child sexual abuse Coffs Coast Nambucca Valley Nambucca Valley News by News Of The Area - Modern Media - September 19, 2021 A campaign has been launched urging Australians to start a national conversation about child sexual abuse. Photo: Australian Federal Police. TWO of Australia’s foremost child safety advocates, Australian of the Year Grace Tame and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews have launched a new campaign to help spark a national conversation about child sexual abuse. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) is leading the ‘Stop the Stigma’ initiative. The partnership involves the AFP, Grace 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, and was developed between Australian law enforcement, non-government organisations and industry. It is designed to send a strong signal to victims and the community that this vitally important issue has to be a two-way conversation in that if victims are brave enough to speak up, the community needs 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 Government priority. “We encourage children to speak up if they’re offered a ride with a stranger,” Minister Andrews said. “Keeping children safe from sexual exploitation shouldn’t be embarrassing or shameful – we all have a part to play in this important conversation. “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.” Grace 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,” Grace said. “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.” 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 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.” Assistant Commissioner Gale said the most important thing the community can do is to start the conversation and listen when someone comes to them 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 2,772 charges. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the JACETS have maintained a high operational tempo with total charges against offenders spiking 130 per cent, up from 1,214 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 at http://www.accce.gov.au/what-we-do/stop-the-stigma.