Story by Edwina Seslja. Edited for Online by Cameron Kirby
As the Rolf Harris Child Abuse trial has its first witness, Australian schools are hoping to raise awareness about the issue of why so many child abuse victims stay silent.
Schools are hoping to educate children on how to speak out if they are victims of abuse.
The Primary Principals Association president Norm Hart says schools are proactive in educating children from as young as prep about personal safety.
“We are very conscious of the need for adults to protect children from harm,” he said.
“Particularly these absolutely traumatic and almost unbelievably abusive practices.”
He says child safety education is a top priority for schools and teachers are trained to talk with kids and create an environment where student feel safe.
“We talk to kids about how you feel if you are unsafe,” he said.
“Butterflies and hot flushes and that sort of thing so that they understand that there are physical reactions to being put in this type of situation.”
He says it is important for children to have someone they can go too no matter what.
“We try and have kids use their own hand so they can name five people that they can tell about any of these sorts of situations that they find themselves in,” he said.
“So that they have more than one person that they can trust.”
He said often in primary school one of those fingers will be the child’s school teacher.
The Primary Principals Association says teachers must alert authorities if students come to them with any reports of abuse.
“It is now a criminal offence not to report any such disclosures,” Mr Hart says.
“So in primary school we accept the disclosure from the child, offer immediate comfort if it is required and report the incident to the appropriate authority .”
While schools must legally report the complaint to police, there is not much more they can do.
Child safety groups say the responsibility must then fall to parents and the community.
Daniel Morcombe Foundation events manager Tracey McAsey says children need to have a network of people they can go to for help.
“We ask for them [children] to have a think about their trusted network. It can be a friend, parent or grandparent,” she said.
She says the foundation aims to educate children on their safety through three steps; recognise, react and report.