Australia has a serious problem with child sexual abuse.
In 2018, the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) released a report on the state of family, domestic and sexual abuse in Australia. According to the latest data, 1 in 6 women (1.5 million) women and 1 in 9 (992,000) men were physically and/or sexually abused under the age of 15 in 2018.
Due to ongoing abuse, 55,600 were placed in out-of-home care. Despite the efforts of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to make a change in Australia, these numbers continue to rise.
More children are suffering from the after-effects of sexual, physical and emotional abuse – depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness and substance abuse.
More children are at risk of being removed from inept parents and being put up for adoption.
These are horrific statistics and it needs to change – now.
We need to learn to recognise the signs of child abuse and report it before it’s too late.
Signs of child abuse
Reporting child abuse is a crucial first step in protecting a child from sexual abuse.
The important thing to remember – you do not need to prove child sexual abuse is actually occurring to report it. A reasonable suspicion is all that is needed to report child abuse.
Here are just a few signs of child abuse/child sexual abuse:
- Distrust of adults
- Aggressive, submissive, anxious or distressed behaviour
- Low self-esteem and self-deprecating language
- Difficulty connecting or relating to other children
- Difficulty concentrating/decreased performance at school
- Tries hard to please others
- Experiences frequent nightmares, anxiety attacks, bedwetting
- Excessive ticks, humming, rocking
- Unexplained bruises or injuries
- Inappropriate knowledge about sex
- Never wants to go home
- Alcohol and drug abuse
If a child is showing multiple signs from the list above, there’s a chance they may be experiencing emotional, physical or sexual abuse. If this is the case, it’s time to report the abuse.
How to report child sexual abuse
Some professionals, such as doctors, nurses and teachers, are legally obliged to report suspicions of child sexual abuse, although these laws vary from state to state. This is called mandatory reporting.
If you suspect that a child may be being sexually abused, you can make a report to the child protection authority in your state.
If a child is in immediate danger, call the police on 000.
Here are ways on how to report child sexual abuse:
Australian Capital Territory
Office for Children, Youth and Family Support.
Phone: 1300 556 729
New South Wales
Department of Family and Community Services
Phone: 132 111 (TTY 1800 212 936)
Department of Children and Families
Phone: 1800 700 250.
Department of Community, Child Safety and Disability Services
During business hours – contact your regional child safety service. To find out the number for your service, call: 1800 811 810 or see a full list of services here.
After hours and on weekends, call: 1800 177 135 or (07) 3235 9999.
Department for Education and Child Development
Phone: 131 478
Department of Health and Human Services
Phone: 1300 737 639
Phone: 13 12 78
Department for Child Protection and Family Support
During business hours, call: (08) 9222 2555; or country free call: 1800 622 258
After hours, please contact Crisis Care on: (08) 9223 1111; country free call: 1800 199 008