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Child abuse

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Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call 000. If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory.

Child abuse is any behaviour that harms or could harm a child or young person, either physically or emotionally. It does not matter whether the behaviour is intentional or unintentional.

There are different types of child abuse, and many children experience more than one type:

  • Physical abuse: using physical force to deliberately hurt a child.
  • Emotional abuse: using inappropriate words or symbolic acts to hurt a child over time. 
  • Neglect: failing to provide the child with conditions needed for their physical and emotional development and wellbeing.
  • Sexual abuse: using a child for sexual gratification.
  • Exposure to family violence: when a child hears or sees a parent or sibling being subjected to any type of abuse, or can see the damage caused to a person or property by a family member’s violent behaviour.

Children are most often abused or neglected by their parents or carers of either sex. Sexual abuse is usually by a man known to the child — a family member, a friend or a member of the school or church community.

Child abuse can affect a child’s physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural and social development through to adulthood.

Recognising the signs of child abuse is important. There may be physical, emotional or behavioural signs such as:

  • broken bones or unexplained bruising, burns or welts
  • not wanting to go home
  • creating stories, poems or artwork about abuse
  • being hungry and begging, stealing or hoarding food

You should report suspected child abuse to the relevant authority in your state or territory, even if you are not certain it’s happening. This is called a notification.

Child protection systems vary depending on which state and territory you live in. This includes definitions of when a child requires protection and when authorities will intervene. 

Some occupations are legally required to report suspected cases of child abuse to government authorities. The laws are different between states and territories but the most common occupations are teachers, doctors, nurses and police.

Getting help

If you have hurt your child, or feel like you might hurt them, call Lifeline on 131 114.

If you are a child, teen or young adult who needs help and support, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

If you are an adult who experienced abuse as a child, call Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 or visit their website at www.blueknot.org.au/Helpline.

For more information on child abuse visit the Australian Institute of Family Studies website. 

Sources:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare(Child protection), ReachOut.com(What is child abuse?), Kids Helpline(Homepage), Queensland Government(About child abuse), Australian Institute of Families(Reporting child abuse and neglect: Information for service providers), Blue Knot Foundation(For survivors of childhood trauma and abuse), Australian Institute of Families(What is child abuse and neglect?)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018

RETRIEVED https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/child-abuse

Elite Sydney private schools face sexual abuse suits

By Jacob Saulwick

Updated April 6, 2016 — 11.19amfirst published at 7.04am


The royal commission into child sexual abuse has triggered a fresh wave of litigation against Sydney private and Catholic schools.

Sydney lawyer Ross Koffel says he has filed 10 claims on behalf of abuse victims against elite schools, including De La Salle College Revesby Heights, Knox Grammar School, The Scots College and the previous administrators of Waverley College, and more are in the works.

Prestigious private schools around Australia are facing multimillion dollar lawsuits from alleged victims of sexual abuse. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.


Mr Koffel said he been contacted by multiple former students across Sydney before and after representing former Knox students at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse last year.

“It just seemed to me to be the same problem in school after school after school, and yes the surprise to us was how many schools, how many students are affected,” Mr Koffel told the ABC’s7.30 program.

Sydney lawyer Ross Koffel has filed 10 claims on behalf of abuse victims against elite schools.CREDIT:ABC 7.30

Mr Koffel said he had been particularly affected by the abuse at Knox, where he studied.

“I had a recollection of the places, the rooms, the school, the playgrounds where it occurred,” he said.

“I knew a lot of the teachers by name, and I was just completely floored.”

One of Mr Koffel’s clients, Adrian Coorie, is suing De La Salle College for damages.

Former De La Salle College Revesby Heights student Adrian Coorie is suing his old school over his alleged sexual abuseCREDIT:ABC 7.30

Mr Coorie alleges the school knew, or ought to have known, that a former teacher, Errol Swayne, was a habitual sexual abuser of boys and failed to ensure Mr Coorie’s safety as a student.

Mr Coorie was encouraged to make the claim after telling the royal commission of the assaults he allegedly suffered at the hands of Mr Swayne, who lived on a caravan on the school grounds.

“Sometimes you can think that you are the only person that something has happened to but that’s not the case,” Mr Coorie told 7.30.

“And that’s where that was confirmed that other people had already been there and spoken to the royal commission about the same person, so that was a bit of an eye-opener too,” he said.

Mr Swayne, who has since killed himself, allegedly showed Mr Coorie pornographic films in the caravan on weekends, and molested him in his office during school hours.

Mr Koffel told Fairfax Media his clients were seeking damages ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to claims in the millions.

“That in each case varies but it is made up of past medical expenses, past economic loss, future economic loss – it’s a complicated formula,” he said.

“There’s obviously a systemic problem amongst all of these schools and one hopes that taking these actions, our clients who are the victims not only will be compensated but will get apologies from various institutions and recognition that the school has done the wrong thing by them,” he said.

“The outcome hopefully is that each school will have better procedures in the future so it will never happen again.”

Mr Koffel said three of the cases were against Scots, in relation to the school’s former maths department head John Joseph Beckett, who has already been convicted of the assaults.

The claim against the school is that it did not protect students from teachers.

“They had a responsibility to look after their teachers and we say that the school is liable for the actions of their teachers,” Mr Koffel said.

In a statement to the ABC, the Presbyterian Church of Australia on behalf of Scots College said it did not want to make any statement that may impinge on the court process.

“We support those who have come forward to tell their story of what happened to them and we respect their courage in doing so,” the statement said.

A Knox Grammar spokesman told the ABC he was unable to comment while the claims were before the court.

A spokeswoman for Waverley College said the school was aware of a claim in the Supreme Court regarding an accusation of abuse.

“This claim has been filed against the Trustees of the Christian Brothers, the previous administrators of the school, as distinct from the school’s current administration,” the spokesman said.

“The Christian Brothers ceased administration of the College in 2007 and as such we have no records of the alleged events. Waverley College has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind,” she said.

The action against De La Salle College, Revesby Heights, is against De La Salle Brothers, which had governance of the school at the time.

A spokeswoman for De La Salle Brothers Australia said she could not comment on matters before the courts. 

“More broadly the De La Salle Brothers are committed to working compassionately and cooperatively with complainants in the civil process,” the spokeswoman said. 

Separately, the royal commission said in November it wanted to hear from former students from either The King’s School or Tudor House Preparatory School with information about abuse.

❏ Support is available by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732; Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491.

RETRIEVED https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/elite-sydney-private-schools-face-sexual-abuse-suits-20160406-gnzbam.html

10 Ways to Teach Your Child the Skills to Prevent Sexual Abuse

Straight talk about body parts and a no-secrets policy can protect young kids without scaring them

Natasha Daniels

We can arm kids with knowledge that might save them from being victimized.

1. Talk about body parts early.

Name body parts and talk about them very early. Use proper names for body parts, or at least teach your child what the actual words are for their body parts. I can’t tell you how many young children I have worked with who have called their vagina their “bottom.” Feeling comfortable using these words and knowing what they mean can help a child talk clearly if something inappropriate has happened.

2. Teach them that some body parts are private.

Tell your child that their private parts are called private because they are not for everyone to see. Explain that mommy and daddy can see them naked, but people outside of the home should only see them with their clothes on. Explain how their doctor can see them without their clothes because mommy and daddy are there with them and the doctor is checking their body.

3. Teach your child body boundaries.

Tell your child matter-of-factly that no one should touch their private parts and that no one should ask them to touch somebody else’s private parts. Parents will often forget the second part of this sentence. Sexual abuse often begins with the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else.

4. Tell your child that body secrets are not okay.

Most perpetrators will tell the child to keep the abuse a secret. This can be done in a friendly way, such as, “I love playing with you, but if you tell anyone else what we played they won’t let me come over again.” Or it can be a threat: “This is our secret. If you tell anyone I will tell them it was your idea and you will get in big trouble!” Tell your kids that no matter what anyone tells them, body secrets are not okay and they should always tell you if someone tries to make them keep a body secret.

5. Tell your child that no one should take pictures of their private parts.

This one is often missed by parents. There is a whole sick world out there of pedophiles who love to take and trade pictures of naked children online. This is an epidemic and it puts your child at risk. Tell your kids that no one should ever take pictures of their private parts.

6. Teach your child how to get out of scary or uncomfortable situations.

Some children are uncomfortable with telling people “no”— especially older peers or adults. Tell them that it’s okay to tell an adult they have to leave, if something that feels wrong is happening, and help give them words to get out of uncomfortable situations. Tell your child that if someone wants to see or touch private parts they can tell them that they need to leave to go potty.

7. Have a code word your children can use when they feel unsafe or want to be picked up.

As children get a little bit older, you can give them a code word that they can use when they are feeling unsafe. This can be used at home, when there are guests in the house or when they are on a play date or a sleepover.

8. Tell your children they will never be in trouble if they tell you a body secret.

Children often tell me that they didn’t say anything because they thought they would get in trouble, too. This fear is often used by the perpetrator. Tell your child that no matter what happens, when they tell you anything about body safety or body secrets they will NEVER get in trouble.

9. Tell your child that a body touch might tickle or feel good.

Many parents and books talk about “good touch and bad touch,” but this can be confusing because often these touches do not hurt or feel bad. I prefer the term “secret touch,” as it is a more accurate depiction of what might happen.

10. Tell your child that these rules apply even with people they know and even with another child.

This is an important point to discuss with your child. When you ask a young child what a “bad guy” looks like they will most likely describe a cartoonish villain. You can say something like, “Mommy and daddy might touch your private parts when we are cleaning you or if you need cream — but no one else should touch you there. Not friends, not aunts or uncles, not teachers or coaches. Even if you like them or think they are in charge, they should still not touch your private parts.”

I am not naïve enough to believe that these discussions will absolutely prevent sexual abuse, but knowledge is a powerful deterrent, especially with young children who are targeted due to their innocence and ignorance in this area.

And one discussion is not enough. Find natural times to reiterate these messages, such as bath time or when they are running around naked. And please share this article with those you love and care about and help me spread the message of body safety!

Retrieved: https://childmind.org/article/10-ways-to-teach-your-child-the-skills-to-prevent-sexual-abuse/

https://www.anxioustoddlers.com/prevent-sexual-abuse/

16 ‘Hidden’ Habits of People Who Experienced Child Abuse | The Mighty

Juliette Virzi  •  FollowOctober 31, 2018

It has been said that “no one escapes childhood unscathed.” But sayings like these can have an especially significant meaning for a person who was abused as a child. Unfortunately the effects of childhood abuse don’t usually stay confined to childhood — they often reach into our experience of adulthood.

Maybe your experience growing up with abuse left you with a steady internal monologue of not good enough, not good enough, not good enough whenever you try to accomplish a task. Maybe the only way you can fall asleep is if you rock yourself to sleep — literally rocking back and forth on your bed. Or maybe you experience intense internal shame that no one sees behind the smile you plaster on your face every day.

We wanted to know what “hidden” habits people who were abused as kids have now as adults, so we asked our Mighty community to share their experiences with us.

No matter what your experience of childhood abuse was, it is important to remember you are never alone and there is help available. If you need support right now, reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. Rocking Back and Forth Before Going to Sleep

“I rock myself back and forth to sleep every night. I can’t stop myself from doing it unless I concentrate really hard.” — Vade M.

“I sleep in [the] fetal position every night. I rock back and forth when I get too emotional. I run at any sign of yelling or raising of the voice. When someone cusses at me, I get defensive and angry.” — Leo G.

2. Hiding Food

“I hide food. It sounds ridiculous but I have random stashes of canned food spread throughout my house in the most ridiculous places. I always got shamed for being hungry and fighting for food was commonplace in my house because my parents thought a dinner meant for two people could feed their two growing kids as well as themselves. If I didn’t get much dinner to eat then, ‘Oh well, better luck next time.’ So when I got a little older, I got smarter about stockpiling cans of tuna and soup to eat with the money I made from walking other people’s dogs. It wasn’t too bad then, but it’s still prevalent in my life 14 years later whenever I go grocery shopping.” — Ai L.

3. Engaging in Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

“Biting and chewing at the inside of my cheek until it bleeds. I’ve also developed a bad habit of picking until I create holes in my feet.” — Patience A.

“I shake my leg and/or fidget with my skin, sometimes causing small sores.” — Princess K.

4. Carrying a “Grounding” Object

“I carry a special pillowcase with me wherever I go. It’s my security blanket. I can’t go anywhere without it. I will play with seams with it in my purse and it’s weird that my hand hangs out in my purse all the time but it’s how I handle my anxiety and my flashbacks and just life.” — Kimberly L.

5. Always Having a Secret “Escape Plan”

“I have a really hard time with people walking up behind me. I always have to have an escape plan, and I hate being cornered or my movement restricted in any way. I was chased and cornered a lot as a child, so it’s very triggering. I also struggle with physical contact, especially when I don’t initiate it.” — Shalene R.

“I always know where every exit and possible hiding place is in a room. It’s the first thing I look for in a new place.” — Jenn S.

6. Having Imaginary Friends

“I’m 37 years old with six imaginary friends. One is a comforting mother to me, and three are parts of little girl me at different traumas in my life that I comfort, as if someone was comforting me during those traumas.” — T B.

7. Not Eating Around Others

“Not eating much when I’m around people, then sneaking and stealing food later. One parent was lenient with what I ate so the other one made up for it by trying to ‘keep me healthy.’ Doesn’t help that the first one was always trying to lose weight and not hiding it.” — Sadie B.

8. Sleeping With a Flashlight

“I sleep with a flashlight always on my bed or constantly in reach of my bed ( so I can see what’s coming if I hear any noise or footsteps). I’ve been doing this since I was 3 years old and never felt safe.” — Linda C.

9. Lying

“I was taught as a child to lie. I was forced to lie to cover my abuser, I was forced to lie by my mother to cover the fact that she didn’t protect me, I was forced to lie by my school system because they didn’t zero in on the fact I was being signed out by my abuser once a week so he could abuse me on his schedule. As an adult, I feel compelled to lie to protect people I shouldn’t have to. It’s an everlasting revolving door.” — Jammie G.

10. Having a Complicated Relationship With Sex

“I started to believe I was only an object. I let people use me because I thought that was what I was supposed to do — especially men. I felt I was supposed to have sex when they wanted to, not when I was ready.” — Maria M.

“I get shameful and feel dirty if I enjoy sex.” — Debbie C.

“[I] couldn’t say no to sexually pleasing others, even if I didn’t want it.” — Miranda D.

11. Feeling Responsible for Other People’s Feelings

“I often feel responsible for how other people feel. I feel guilty when others feel bad, even when the situation has nothing to do with me. I sacrifice my own needs in order to make others feel good.” — Kaitlyn L.

“I feel responsible for other’s feelings and their state in life. Like it’s my responsibility alone to make sure their bills are paid etc. I also adopt animals, and most recently learned that it’s probably because animals don’t withhold affection when they are ‘upset’ with you.” — Summer S.

12. Being Unable to Fully Relax

“I am hyper-aware of my surroundings and find it hard to relax and just be. Sometimes I find myself in a fight-or-flight mode, even if I know I’m safe.” — Anthea V.

13. Never Asking for Help

“I’m too afraid to tell people what’s wrong or ask for help. The first time I went to my mother about an issue (I was being bullied in school), she told me to deal with it myself. As a result, I’ve just allowed things to build up because I’m so afraid I’ll be rejected, that I may as well keep it to myself.” — Veronica S.

14. Being Hypervigilant

“I’m hypervigilant. Physical touch isn’t something I do easily, [and I’m] always looking for exits. I size people up, look for physical vulnerability, [have] strong boundaries [and] over-protect my children. That translates to an overly ‘hermitty’ existence, but I’m not complaining.” —Yoli T.

“Hypervigilance 24/7. It’s helped in some of the jobs I’ve had where you need to be on alert, to mask the true source of my hypervigilance. Being overwhelmed and exhausted and needing time to recharge my batteries after going out with friends. I love to be around people, like going to concerts and stuff, but it takes a few days for me to recover from the sensory overload. Insomnia I’ve learned to just accept is part of my life now.” — Jason T.

15. Pushing People Away

“I push people away when they get close to me. I push people away when I get in fights with people. I am reactive. Negative self-talk. I feel guilty a lot.” — Ryan C.

16. Reminding Yourself You Deserve to Live

“When I’m alone I tell myself I deserve to live, that I deserve to be happy. It’s a struggle every day. I still have suicidal thoughts sometimes, but thankfully I have the most supportive group of people around me who love me. Without them I don’t know where I would be.” — Ginna B.

RETRIEVED https://themighty.com/2018/10/hidden-habits-child-abuse/

Safe and happy childhood … ?!

If “all children deserve a safe and happy childhood”, as the Letters Patent began Australia’s recent CARC (Child Abuse Royal Commission) – how far along this journey are Survivors, Family-Friends, Institutions & Perpetrators? While some fairytales have more possibility of ‘safe & happy’ endings, reality is that multiple Victims are losing their chance to experience any Compensation &/or Redress from the Institutions & Perpetrators responsible. Perhaps this extension of time is part of the calculated risk of Predators targeting the Vulnerable … ‘don’t worry, they’ll be dead/unable/incapacitated before we need to worry about things’ may frequently be thought.

Back to the returning of our youth’s lost safety and happiness of childhood – this is a far greater accomplishment of “trust, intimacy, agency & sexuality” that many Victims have not fully experienced. I hope for more Messages-Posts-Questions-Discussions around these 4 broad points!